Note — Dec 04, 2019

Better than Ethics

Rachel Coldicutt on how sympathetic technology can go beyond ethics. The latter can end up being “an exercise in defining the floor—what can be got away with, not what should be done—and how instead it’s vital to raise our sights and aim higher.” She also argues that we should be thinking beyond humanity when dealing with the climate crisis, that technology is not ungovernable, and that shareholder value is not the only value. Nature is changing faster than we can really grasp, and “the same can be said of data and the digital world, which is too big, too numerous, for most of us to comprehend.” Finally she advocates for a moderate path between technodeterminism and luddism, between survivalism and apathy. (Coldicutt ends up echoing a lot of the thinking in the article above, but her writing is a lot more approachable.)

And meanwhile, the complexification continues – the amount of data collected is going up and up and up, but very little of it is understood. Just as we’re burning the planet, we’re at risk of drowning ourselves in data – making new problems faster than we have time to solve them. […]

So just as we need to find new ways to live on planet earth, we need to look for different ways to co-exist with technology. We need to settle in, find out what a good life feels like, and feel empowered to claim that. We’re just over a decade into living with smartphones; it’s a tiny blip in time, there’s nothing inevitable or immutable about it. It’s our current reality, not our destiny. […]

Rather than assuming there is only a binary choice between technodeterminism and luddism, between survivalism and apathy, there is the opportunity of creating a moderate path – something more sympathetic, and more balanced, in which honouring others’ human rights, taking care of the planet, and fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals comes as standard, in which data supports us and doesn’t overwhelm us, and in which business doesn’t always take the lead.