Can technology become a force for global equality, or is the future destined to remain unfair?


#1

[Permalink]


#2

Fuller: "Everybody's under a lot of risk now, largely because of all the transparency."

Wat?
Humans are safer now that they have ever been. Even with the non-existent 'threat' posed by modern terrorism (especially terrorism that doesn't happen within 4,000 kms of our back yards, and which has replaced the low-level warfare that characterized just about all of human history). And posed by pollution. And by ebola. (Well, except for stupidity. That one IS a real threat to humanity.)

Sorry, I couldn't listen to the whole thing. I'm sure there were times you wanted to pick up your chair and beat them over the head while shouting "How can you not understand this?!!??!.. Oh, maybe because your reasoning method consists of stating, for example, 'π is essentially three' then continuing '..therefore..'"


#3

It is difficult to listen to the entire thing, not just because of the sound quality.

Steve Fuller - obviously the oldest member of the panel - comparing privacy technologies like The Onion Router to air-raid shelters is a great descriptor of his understanding of these, and other open source technologies. He tips his hand immediately by describing the "Internet Revolution" as "distressing".

Leave it to the journalist to begin "the pitch" with her curriculum vitae.


#4

Man, I'm older than Fuller and I would never liken TOR to Air Raid Shelters....


#5

So how does Fuller qualify to be on the panel? Sure, he is a philosopher, they wanted a philosopher and he certainly argued like one, but he was clearly arguing against a position nobody held on the panel and with assumptions that only he believes.

It's sad that Fuller gained credibility by arguing on the panel when he is clearly talking out his behind.


#6

In Sum:

"If you can't distinguish between transparency for the strong and privacy for the weak, then you are not taking the discussion very seriously."

The dude is a "pro" contrarian. It's always been a career path, but it has become even more annoyingly common in the age of clickbait.

His "shout-over" debate strategy makes it painful to watch.

How did you resist breaking that finger he kept stabbing at you with?


#7

Watched for a while, and then just started skipping to Cory's sections.

I always find it interesting when i watch Star Trek, and completely accept the fact that Kirk/Picard/Janeway whoever can access information about where anyone is on the ship and what they're doing at any time, that i want that future, but then realize that they in the real world aren't a benevolent dictator who wouldn't use the data they've collected against you. smile edit - double negative


#8

Where'd they dig this guy up? He seems hand-picked to make you look good.

I can think of at least a dozen philosophers (or people willing to be billed as such) from my uni days in England that would have brought some actual philosophy into this. They'd also have had ideas about the internet that didn't come from some mid-century popsci article on the future of the telephone.


#9

'The barriers to knowledge have shrunk, fallen or disappeared thanks to technology. The falling price of tech means knowledge is in the hands of almost anyone who wants it. End of discussion, let's go to the pub and leave this moron here to play with himself.'


#10

I'm unclear which moron you are referring to, Some vastly silly things were said by all participants.


#11

I was suggesting to Cory something he could've said at the talk to save half an hour of his life.

The technophobia expressed in the mere question: Can technology become a force for global equality, or is the future destined to remain unfair? is ridiculous because it implies that technology has not yet, in any way, become a force for global equality and in fact it could be an imposition to progress.

Count me out of Team Technophobia. Anyone who is versed in these things (as I feel Cory is) knows that technology levels the playing field, provided it is accessible. Tech is now quite accessible because the price barriers are falling day by day.


#12

Indeed the question is flawed. Certainly there is more tech out there than ever before but I'm neither a technophobe nor a techno-utopian. Technology doesn't change human nature.


#13

Language is a technology. Would you say that language did not change human nature?


#14

C'mon, now. I went to the Benjamin Franklin Institute back in '61, and they had this phone that had numerical buttons on it! It was awesome! How could that not be the future?


#15

Had not thought of it that way.


#16

Language is technology like walking and lifting things is technology, i.e. it isn't. Granted many parts of modern languages have been intentionally designed to improve communication, so it does get at least a little fuzzy. But language itself is an evolved, not invented, capability for social animals.

On your original point, the falling prices of tech and the eventual wide availability of a given tech don't show that tech is a force for global equality, but rather that tech itself becomes distributed through some other equalizing force.

I readily admit that technology is a force for improving people's lives. No doubt about that. But it's not causing equality. The global Gini coefficient is estimated to have been steadily rising since 1800. And historians that poke around in this stuff usually decide that the pre-industrial revolution world was, on the whole, significantly more economically equal than is now.

So if technology is a force for global equality, it's too weak to counter whatever forces for inequality are at play.


#17

But language itself is an evolved, not invented, capability for social animals.

They do not have to be mutually exclusive. It's a chicken and egg situation.

many parts of modern languages have been intentionally designed

Define 'modern language'. Intentional design goes back at least to the invention of writing.

don't show that tech is a force for global equality, but rather that tech itself becomes distributed through some other equalizing force.

Again it can be both. As they pointed out in the video, the capacity to engage financially with the wider world through technologies such as Solar panels (mains power is a luxury in many places), Cheap phones (as cheap as $10-20 now) and MPESA is unarguably a force for equality as it enables capabilities that were not possible before.

The global Gini coefficient is estimated to have been steadily rising since 1800.

And over the same period the world's population has exploded which complicates this argument. Economic equality is not the only form of equality. Quality of life indexes have mostly improved over the years as the costs of various medical technologies spread and places like India mass produce generic pharmaceuticals. These are all technologies.

So if technology is a force for global equality, it's too weak to counter whatever forces for inequality are at play.

If the only measure is economic equality, then I agree.


#18

I thought we had already sat down and looked at technology and came to the conclusion that technology is completely neutral to the human condition.

It's still the people who are the force. The internet doesn't kill people, people do whatever they want.


#19

I don't really want to get hung up on language stuff, or really I don't want to be writing giant internet essays on psycholinguistics and philosophy of mind/language. In this context, I'm mostly concerned when "technology" gets broadened to the point of uselessness (not that you went that far). In the video's talk, I think they were clearly using technology as "computers and other electronic stuff". Otherwise it should have been a discussion about, "Are techniques and tools forces for global equality?" Which I would say is a trivial "no" so far. Some of them are, sure. But on balance, no.

I never doubted that technology can improve people's situation. Cheap phones and rural solar power certainly do that. But those have nothing on what is available to people in technologically and economically advanced places. You'd need some kind of tech that uniquely helps the poor much more than it benefits the rich. And those, if they exist, are few and far between.

But you're right. Economic equality isn't all there is. If anything flattens out quality-of-life in the future, it will come from the fact that there are still people with too little food, bad sanitation, and dangerous water. If we can fix that, and add the niceties that get everyone up to the standard of, say, a Western lower middle class, that would be ridiculously fantastic.

But I guess I'm still stuck on the improvement vs equality distinction. Because new tech that helps the global poor out of their squalor tends to be either made by entrepreneurs in a developed country, is derived from tech that has already boosted developed economies, or is just not as good as something already being used in developed countries.

So I see lots of improvement happening via technology. But actual equality is still only likely to come from the global elite hitting some kind of non-technological wall.


#20

I agree entirely. I also agree that in these discussion people get so freaking reductive that things that just are, such as roads, become considered "technology". The only thing I'd add to my commentary about medicines is that the decreasing cost of technology (i.e. computers, etc.) in developed nations has benefits for research into better tools and equipment to help developing nations. I also agree that economic inequality is a big problem that needs to be addressed.

IRT your comments on who benefits from these technological improvements, it reminds me of a product that I'd not heard about until last night: FariPhone. It's an ethically-focussed smartphone that gives you clear breakdowns of production costs, ensures all their components and materials are conflict-free, ensures that the phones are produced by people being paid a fair living wage and is designed with maximum lifespan, versatility and recyclability in mind. Sadly you can only at present buy them in Europe because I would be suggesting these to everyone if I could. www.fairphone.com