Thursday, March 08, 2018

Pro-Tech and Anti-Tech

Cory Doctorow's current LOCUS essay is titled "Let's Get Better at Demanding Better from Tech":

Demanding Better from Tech

Doctorow rejects the "anti-tech/pro-tech false dichotomy" in favor of a more nuanced analysis of the issues. As he puts it, there's no getting around the fact that "your future is going to have more technology in it, so the question isn’t, 'Should we use technology?' but rather, 'Which technology should we use?'” Is it possible to enjoy the advantages of high-tech and connectivity without losing our privacy? He urges us to embrace "the ability to separate a technology from its social and economic context," a process science fiction can help with. This article touches on surveillance, privacy, licensing agreements, advertising, the Internet age, market forces, and "neoliberal capitalism." He maintains that we can find ways to benefit from tech without surrendering our individual rights and resigning ourselves to the dominance of corporations that equate to "colony life-forms that use us like gut-flora, maneuvering us to help them thrive and reproduce, jettisoning us or crushing us if we cease to serve their needs."

The dilemma of convenience versus privacy also applies to the practice of tracking through fitness devices, which Rowena discusses in her latest blog, although Doctorow doesn't mention that issue. As for Alexa, I don't use her, but if I did, I would be quite disturbed at the idea of her betraying my trust by ratting on me to higher authority.

Doctorow suggests that "AI-apocalypses"—scenarios in which super-intelligent computers become our "overlords"—remain popular because they "resonate with our current corporate situation." Corporations, however, unlike actual gut-flora, comprise people who, we hope, can be reasoned with. So Doctorow ends with a upbeat message that all isn't necessarily lost, where personal rights and privacy are concerned, and there's hope.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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