Technologies of Peace and War

My good friend Sanjana Hattotuwa recently wrote on his blog ICT4Peace:

"To limit the use of technology to pacifism is, I would argue, to stunt its development. Whether we like it or not, most of the radical advancements in technology come not from R&D into their peaceful uses, but from billions of dollars spent on how we can obliterate “enemies” and “terrorists”. However, the appropriation of tools used in war by those interested in non-violence, conflict resolution and peacebuilding has occured throughout history."

Computers are neutral as to their areas of application. Just like any tool (a knife, a hammer, a plane) computers and communications technologies are implements that are used by humans to achieve their desired ends. As such, the lionization or demonization of technology as a force for x, y, or z social phenomenon misses the point. We can use technology to uplift and ennoble ourselves, certainly, but we can also just as easily use technology to debase and shame ourselves.

This fundamental truth about ICT is often lost in the FUD sown by proponents and opponents on both sides. Just as the internet has emerged as the most accurate mirror of humanity ever created, the outward ripples of new technology reveal much more about us than about the nature of the silicon wafers and transistors that we endlessly re-assemble and improve.

Technology will be used by the warriors and the peacemakers alike. I like to think of those of us in the ODR field as being in the latter camp, but to deny any part of human nature is folly. I don't know if I agree with Sanjana when he says, "...most of the radical advancements in technology come not from R&D into their peaceful uses, but from billions of dollars spent on how we can obliterate 'enemies'..." -- I'd suggest that greed outpaces power in its role as an engine in the evolution of ICT -- but he is dead on when he forces us to face the true origins of the boxes on our desktops.

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