9.5 Theses about Technology in the Midst of a Pandemic and Protests

The COVID-19 pandemic, the related infodemic, the digital transformation these have accelerated, and the social and especially racial inequities these have highlighted have caused me to rethink, reorder, and refine my 9.5 theses about technology. (I share some thoughts about the most significant changes here.)

Here is the current version of these, including many updated links to relevant posts:

1. We are living through a unique and transformative moment in history. New digital and networked information and communication technologies, increasingly powered by autonomous and intelligent systems, are profoundly and irrevocably changing our lives and world.

2. Our present revelatory or apocalyptic moment uncovers old patterns of injustice and alerts us to how technologies create asymmetries of power that exacerbate old and create new social inequities. With digital technologies, we see these in divides relate to access, literacy, and wisdom.

3. Technology has been with us—and defining what it means to be a human—from the beginning. Technology had a significant role in human evolution, enabling us to become human and more human.

4. Technologies are neither inevitable nor neutral. We design and use them, creating and engaging with affordances that both enable and limit our agency. In a period of technological disenchantment, we are awakening to the responsibilities of designers and users.

5. There is cause for hope for our technological future. To move beyond naïve optimism, we need new narratives and new eschatologies that look beyond utopian and dystopian visions and are truly apocalyptic.

6. We are digitally naïve. Individually and collectively, we need to reflect on how we are shaping new information and communication technologies and how they are shaping us, and we need to close the current ethical gap between our intentions and actions. We need to become digitally literate as well as digitally wise agents.

7. Attention management is the greatest challenge facing us individually and culturally. We need to cultivate active and receptive forms of attention and upgrade our formative practices along with our material technologies. Instead of digital withdrawal or rejection, we should pursue our appropriate digital vocation.

8. There is a new digital dimension to reality, blending, enveloping, and transforming our physical lives and world.

9. Our lives are characterized by a digital device paradigm. We interact with surface layers of technology supported by invisible substructures and surrounding environments of surveillance.

9.5. We should be humbled by our finitude and history of corruption. Innovation should be balanced with curation, acknowledging that appropriate limits are ambiguous

Here is a presentation on these I prepared for one my classes: