Social media philosophy blog
Friday October 19th 2018

On technological fixes

British architect Cedric Price once joked “Technology is the answer, but what was the question?” Today, this is more thought-provoking than funny. The idea that we tend to solve technical problems with more technology, has never been more applicable than with Internet technology. Furthermore, increasingly, we feel that more technology can solve societal and political problems as well. Such ideas are described as cyber-utopian in the much discussed The Net Delusion: how not to liberate the world, by Evgeny Morozov (2011). Morozov argues that more free information often is seen as a profound and quick fix to totalitarian regimes. Unfortunately, while social media can create new arenas for discussion, this can also help the regime to identify, control and apprehend dissidents. More information does not lead to more free people.

Morozov starts the book with an interesting criticism of the role Twitter played in the Iranian demonstrations, June 2009. This discussion is surprisingly similar to current discussions on the role of social media and the uprising in middle eastern countries, such as Egypt.

While Morozov’s book is a healthy wake up signal, these kinds of criticisms of technological fixes are problematic in the way that societal problems are divorced from technological problems. As I see it, our society is hopelessly intermingled with a wide range of technologies and these stand as part of the definition of a modern society. There is no technological fix on a nontechnological societal problem, is there?

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