Justin Li

Technology and Society


I have been meaning to write about this for a while, but have always procrastinated on it because I didn't want to figure out the logic behind my intuition. But then today I was linked to an article about how computers are making a lot of people unemployed, so I thought it's time explain my idea:

I think we are taking the first steps towards the guarantee of food, shelter, and clothing for everyone in the world.

This seems crazy, but here are the trends I'm seeing:

This is one of the reasons I've said to anyone who would listen that we live in interesting times. Technology is changing at a quick enough pace that governments can't keep up. Just look at the mess that surrounds every contact point between technology and law: software patents, internet censorship, net neutrality, social network privacy, online anonymity, and so on and so forth. There are also spill over effects from the massive userbase of the internet: WikiLeaks, dissemination of police brutality recordings, DDoS attacks, and so on and so forth.

While we're here, I want to bring up a rarely discussed facet of copyright, that of 3D printing. As material extruders become more popular, the fight over design of physical items is going to eclipse that of over music, films, and other pure information. This article gives more details.

What I find even more intriguing is that, while technology is disrupting the fabric of social by creating a jobless world, it may also be on the cutting edge of suggesting solutions to those problems. The main insight I had was that the digital world already has many of the properties of a jobless society. They include:

It is not surprising that, giving these properties, we are still struggling with some of the implications:

I think there are lessons that can be translated from the digital world to the physical world, which may give rough predictions of what will happen in the next century. At the risk of looking like an idiot when that time comes, here are some analogous societal changes I think might (and I hope will) occur:

I have been keeping an eye out on how technology - computers and the internet in particular - have changed society. It's astounding to think that even my childhood twenty years ago is very different from the childhoods of the people growing up now. I cannot begin to imagine the world in which children in another twenty years will be accustomed to. I wonder to what degree will the above problems be solved, and what new problems would have arisen as technology takes more unpredictable turns.

I guess there is one last question I haven't asked. Let's say all this becomes true. Is this a world we want to live in?

PS. A more speculative, transhumanist take on technological evolution.