Are We Already Living in a Tech Dystopia?

Publication Type: 
Other Writing
Publication Date: 
August 26, 2020

People should no more believe in dystopia than utopia. The fact is that technology has changed the world for so many for so long for the better—from reduction of disease to extending life to increased food and health—that to dismiss those gains is just know-nothingism. As with all technological advances, not everyone shares equally in the gains or benefits in the same way, and some may even experience disproportionately negative impacts, but that does not diminish the overall societal value of the advancements. Instead, it should motivate society to extend those benefits to all, to find equity and reduce the negative impacts.

Technology itself is neither good nor evil—it is how society chooses to implement it that creates the problems. Rather than banning this or that technology out of fear of future harm or abuse, it is better to prevent or prosecute the misuse. Maximize the benefits, manage the risks, make the outcomes more fair. All of that is achievable with any technology even though it may not be achievable in every society.

For all those who think we live in a dystopian world, when did we arrive there and at which technological advance would they have shouted “enough!”? Presumably sometime north of the Iron Age, or perhaps at the dawn of the semiconductor or transistor, or social media’s rise, or is it the development of artificial intelligence? I don’t think we’ve achieved utopia, but technology actually keeps us from dystopia, and keeps us striving for the next great cure or the next advancement or innovation.

Part of a Gizmodo series