Fixing Tech Won’t Save the World

The (Short) Case Against Technological Determinism

Fixing Tech Won’t Save the World

If we keep thinking that tech is the problem and we try to solve only tech, we will never reach a sustainable solution. Tech is but a mirror of society. We can't tackle the problem without going to the root causes which lie in capitalism's deeply engrained toxic political and social structures.

Stop blaming tech

Technology has been making the illnesses of society more visible, like a new vector for symptoms to manifest. But treating the effects rather than facing the root causes is like working with a blindfold on. We can only really understand the problems of tech if we understand their larger context and history. We need to kill the techno-solutionist narrative that our consumerist society so badly needs to perpetuate.

As McLuhan proposed, every technology is an extension of Man in that it replicates or amplifies existing abilities.

Tech is a mirror of society

What we can't seem to acknowledge is that what's happening on social platforms, be they driven by commercially oriented business models or not, is simply a reflection of what's happening in society. As an example, even without the destructive bias of data-hungry algorithms, "highly private and encrypted" chat platform WhatsApp has been identified as the source of multiple large-scale waves of misinformation. Social problems are not caused by technology, but are more than ever enabled and made visible by it.

The need for accountability

It's like we don't want to be accountable and are looking for external phenomena to put the blame on. Humans crave power and today's societal problems have, to some extent, always been inevitable. They are simply an unfortunate reflection of our nature, emphasized even strongly by technology. It's easier to blame the unexpected consequences of something we've designed and built, than accept that we've been playing such a large role in the problem.

We don't want to acknowledge that capitalism is causing all these issues because we still want to enjoy its positive sides. We want social media to be less about advertising, but still want to live by the rule that everything on the Internet should be free. We want to save the environment, but still want the ease of shopping online and getting packages flown in from across the world. We want to defend our privacy, but still want to enjoy the convenience of having a machine listen to everything that's being said in our home. Well, all things come at a cost and again, it's part of our nature to want the good without the bad.