Danah Boyd has an interesting piece on the Reality Distortion Field that is modern tech. Viewed through the original call of Cyberspace from 20 years ago, during the halcyon early days of the ‘net, it’s a glimpse into the future that awaits, and its not pretty.
At first I thought I had just encountered the normal hype/fear dichotomy that I’m faced with on a daily basis. But as I listened to attendees talk, a nervous creeping feeling started to churn my stomach. Watching startups raise downrounds and watching valuation conversations moving from bubbalicious to nervousness, I started to sense that what the tech sector was doing at Davos was putting on the happy smiling blinky story that they’ve been telling for so long, exuding a narrative of progress: everything that is happening, everything that is coming, is good for society, at least in the long run.
Shifting from “big data,” because it’s become code for “big brother,” tech deployed the language of “artificial intelligence” to mean all things tech, knowing full well that decades of Hollywood hype would prompt critics to ask about killer robots. So, weirdly enough, it was usually the tech actors who brought up killer robots, if only to encourage attendees not to think about them. Don’t think of an elephant. Even as the demo robots at the venue revealed the limitations of humanoid robots, the conversation became frothy with concern, enabling many in tech to avoid talking about the complex and messy social dynamics that are underway, except to say that “ethics is important.” What about equality and fairness?
What indeed? To the new Kings of Cyberspace, that’s a minor detail. What matters is that they have the solution, if only us pesky normals would get out of their way and let them do it. Oh, and maybe provide a bit of funding. Crowdsource your nation.
There is a power shift underway and much of the tech sector is ill-equipped to understand its own actions and practices as part of the elite, the powerful. Worse, a collection of unicorns who see themselves as underdogs in a world where instability and inequality are rampant fail to realize that they have a moral responsibility.
They fight as though they are insurgents while they operate as though they are kings.
Worth reading on full: https://points.datasociety.net/it-s-not-cyberspace-anymore-55c659025e97#.qpdm0jv91