Our Digital Disillusionment and Hope

Photo by Leo on Unsplash

I think it is fair to say that society is becoming increasingly disillusioned with our digital lives. The promise of the internet, open and free has become expensive and devolved into digital feudalistic states. Social media threw us all in a room and someone started a fight. The techno gods took a page from the food industry and figured out how to get us addicted with dopamine. The algorithmic bloodhounds hunt for the manna that will addle our brains.

We are the product and we are the serf. While this may all seem dystopian and doomed, that’s not where we are, nor where we are going. In fact, we may well, like we have many times before throughout history, end up figuring it out. We’re rather clever at that.

We’ve been disillusioned with technology before, going back hundreds of years. In some ways, it may be a normal sociocultural reaction. Then we figure it out in a more pragmatic way.

This is not an article to bring us down, but rather, one that shows there is hope. How exactly it will play out is a guessing game and subject matter for storytellers and Netflix series.

We have in large part, become disillusioned with technologies because few of the promises made in the 20th century, have been delivered. There’s no automated cars, the robots aren’t peeling our grapes for us, flying cars are for YouTube Shorts, information technologies didn’t give us the paperless office, instead giving us decades long productivity paralysis.

The pundits of the AI world have proclaimed that this will soon be solved with AI. Perhaps. The reality is it will take a decade or more for the evidence to show us.

We were sold on a new, happier, equitable society. Hollywood gave us the Terminator, but it also gave us Back to the Future. We were sold more utopia than dystopia. Even superhero movies have left us bereft of the promised future as Marvel movies fizzle.

Instead of a fairer economy, we were handed Surveillance Capitalism in the palm of our hand with candy coloured apps. Sweet dopamine. We came to believe the myth that if I’m not doing wrong, my privacy is safe. Now we have digital badgers zipping through fiberoptic channels, plying their data trade at every router. Ever frightful, the bureaucrat’s acquiesced to the rumbling…

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Giles Crouch | Digital Anthropologist

Digital Anthropologist | Chief Innovation Officer | I'm in WIRED, Forbes & National Geographic etc.