1978. I still wore flared trousers while everyone else had graduated to skinny bottoms. I had just entered my teens and my soundtrack was Kraftwerk rather than the racket of punk.
‘We are the robots, do do do doo,’ I’d sing, arms jerking in a robotic dance, while the music blared from the family stereo. Back then, robots were definitely ‘of the future’. And the wave of new tech that has since transformed our lives with giant leaps in automation, robotics, computing and communications technology was barely taking shape.
Today many would describe automation as a tsunami. The pace of change is accelerating, affecting our jobs, privacy, notions of governance and, increasingly, promising a rigid technocratic future. At times, it seems like technology itself will dictate how we live, rather than playing a subordinate, enabling role. ‘We are the robots’ becomes a bitterly ironic refrain.
At such times it is useful to remind ourselves that it is not the tech that is at fault but the motives of those who jostle to control it. And when it is corporate players setting the agenda, that means we have a serious fight on our hands.
Other features in this edition highlight some of the struggles that make us human – whether that be patients bending the rules to access drugs, exploited migrant workers rising up in Lebanon, or a savvy Rastafarian lawyer leading the charge for cannabis freedom.
Dinyar Godrej for the New Internationalist co-operative.
Technology is changing society at breakneck speed but considerations of human impacts lag far behind. Dinyar Godrej sketches out some of the key political battles ahead.
We are always at the threshold of the future. But whereas in the past, the path beyond seemed like a gradient, with a horizon that one might dimly view, today it seems to resemble a graph of seismic activity. Our threshold is a brink.
The main reason for this altered future landscape is often given as the breakneck acceleration of technology. While previous technological revolutions occurred over millennia (farming) or centuries (industrialization), comparable breakthroughs today happen in a...
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