The Place of Technology in Our Common Futures

“The promise of technology is to remove the division between culture and nature. Whatever part of nature that is left over as an independent force is covered by the technological bluff, which refers it to the agenda of the future and disguises the deficiencies of the present.” – Donald Philip Verene

Technological advancements have become a part and parcel of our daily lives. Even before you step out of bed in the morning, it’s guaranteed that you’ll use your phone first and most likely the last thing you’ll use before you get into bed again. While this is the case, the uses of these technologies are as varied and numerous as our needs and wants as humans. The main concern being what each of us needs out of these technologies and how we interact with them. For some they are social networks, others marketplaces and others tools of business i.e. developers and owners. I am a tech-enthusiast but not the one who relishes on knowing everything about the latest technologies. No. My interest is more on what new capabilities we find in these new technologies and how we can optimize them to serve humanity better. On this account I’ve got multiple ideas and concepts with some colleagues we are trying to figure out their applicability. Hopefully, some will work out and become a reality. I hope you get to experience their impact or maybe they touch the lives of your loved ones.

On another note, as we look into the genesis and evolution of technology, with every advancement there have always been some speculation of doom coupled with greater prospects. Whichever side of the narrative you fall, I believe technology isn’t the problem but rather those who use them e.g. a gun in the hands of a terrorist is terrible but in the hands of a security officer it’s a treasure. It’s humanity at fault if we look at it from this dimension. Starting off the year, I’ve taken up 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari to be my first read for the year and I’m amazed by his historical perspectives and visionary outlook on how our lives may be impacted by technologies. In his argument, as technologies evolve and advance they are gaining new capabilities which may not outpace human consciousness but may surpass human intelligence. On this account, reflecting on history he argues that in the 19th Century technologies contributed to the industrial revolution as tools of work for efficiency. Human beings were the users thus they ultimately became employees. This to an extent contributed to the civil disputes and labor laws as workers believed they were being exploited. It was an era of exploitation.

Currently, with the emerging technologies, these solutions to an extent are making humans redundant especially for menial physical jobs. This means the demands for workers will reduce except for high level knowledge workers. Those who may not be able to evolve rapidly to this may be phased out of the job market completely. Rather than exploitation it’ll be an era of irrelevance. In this phase the focus is on convenience which has been the greatest focus in current technological innovations & advances. Take example of Uber & Amazon making it convenient for you to order whatever it is that you intend to and have it delivered to your doorstep. Social media channels integrating marketplaces, social networks and the current advances in Augmented Reality (AR) human interactions will be modelled around technologies and therefore for convenience we’ll all want to be on these platforms. It’s a natural human pool rather than coercive. You either conform and join the bandwagon or miss and because humans have a fear of missing out, they’ll play ball. This is the envisioned future which we have to come to terms with.

Reflecting on these aspects, I’m reminded of two articles I wrote last year. The Hidden Piece in the 4IR, where I argued for data, information and knowledge as the key drivers of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and The Knowledge Economy, Journey to Self Reliance where I presented a case as to why I believe the future of our economies will be knowledge driven. On these accounts, I gave suggestions on how I believe we can position ourselves to be a part of this future. With new insights from Yuval, I’m more convinced that we are at a tipping point and we need to move with speed, intentionally and strategically. Failure to which we’ll have to bear the burden of these transformations. We share a common future with these technologies and our option is to shape that future for the options are two: transform with them or be transformed by them. The latter is comparable to being the price rather than the prize.

From crowdsourcing technological platforms such as Wikipedia to AR & VR solutions as fronted by Meta and Microsoft we have to reimagine our common futures and commit to shape it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *