Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Technology is not values neutral (consilienceproject.org)
90 points by czue 39 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 60 comments



Surprised the article didn't mention Neil Postman, especially Five Things We Need to Know about Technological Change (1998):

> The first idea is that all technological change is a trade-off.

> This leads to the second idea, which is that the advantages and disadvantages of new technologies are never distributed evenly among the population.

> The third idea, then, is that every technology has a philosophy which is given expression in how the technology makes people use their minds, in what it makes us do with our bodies, in how it codifies the world, in which of our senses it amplifies, in which of our emotional and intellectual tendencies it disregards.

> Here is the fourth idea: Technological change is not additive; it is ecological. ...A new medium does not add something; it changes everything.

> I come now to the fifth and final idea, which is that media tend to become mythic. ...[Using] the word "myth" to refer to a common tendency to think of our technological creations as if they were God-given, as if they were a part of the natural order of things.

https://student.cs.uwaterloo.ca/~cs492/papers/neil-postman--...


The economist Ha-Joon Chang noted that the spread of domestic household technology, such as washing machines, piped gas, refrigerators etc. has had a more dramatic effect on human social organization than the internet and computers have had (as of ~2010 or so). The role of domestic servants was essentially eliminated as a result, and women who'd traditionally served in that role were able to find employment outside the home as a result (which also created the daytime child care industry).

The first automatic washing machines were introduced in the USA in 1937; a decade later women played important roles in wartime manufacturing during WWII, and by 1970 universities like Caltech finally opened their doors to female students.

It's possible that some new technology - AI-assisted robotic automation in particular - could have a similar societal impact by eliminating many jobs and concentrating wealth in the hands of the owners of the manufacturing lines, although this would seem to be a self-defeating outcome as fewer people would be able to purchase the output. An alternative result would be something like an average 30-hr work week with no change in economic earnings for the vast majority of people.


> could have a similar societal impact by eliminating many jobs and concentrating wealth in the hands of the owners of the manufacturing lines, although this would seem to be a self-defeating outcome as fewer people would be able to purchase the output

Not necessarily. It could enable a more radical reversion to something like a palace economy, where political and economic power are fully concentrated into an elite and away from the people, who are then made dependent on gifts from those elites for survival and comfort.

People nowadays concentrate on money like it's something fundamental, but it isn't (e.g. Putin can be richer and more powerful than all of us, without owning a kopeck). Money is only a proxy for prestige and power in our current social system, and other systems are possible.


You mean like now when inequality has been trending up in leaps and bounds for years, authoritarian story mode leadership forces it’s preferences on the public, and their whims change every 4-8 years, and the public does nothing but kowtow and pander to elderly people who can’t remember anything?

Musk and co are not suffering.

This culture is a joke. None of us are going to Mars and the beyond but we’re setting us and ours aside for another high minded story about forever human prosperity and growth. Nevermind no science allows for humans to live among the stars. Every frame of reference so far as only seen them tightly coupled to Earth.

It’s clear human biology is capable of a philosophy that diverges wildly from reality. No reason at all to see this period in human society, and the people that make it up, as any less susceptible to propaganda and any more capable of their forever stories than the ancient Greeks.

They may not be spewing the syntax of religion, but the semantic meaning demanded by the powers that be are no different; kowtow to the visions and hallucinations of the almighty.


Money does have a critical characteristic: fungibility, its defining technological function. Putin stays in power primarily by redistributing kopecks. But unlike, say, land, kopecks are fungible; this moderates and limits his power. People can flee with kopecks. People can transfer kopecks to others without Putin's knowledge or say-so, manipulating social networks beyond Putin's direct control. The power of modern authoritarians is in many ways much more precarious and circumscribed than in earlier eras.

This precariousness is compounded by international trade, making the value of kopecks at least partly dependent on economic performance. (In a perfectly insular economy, Putin would have much more control over kopecks, including fungibility, but you can't regress to such insularity without destroying most wealth in the country.)

Notably, Putin has plenty of kopecks stashed overseas, presumably partly out of concern for the precariousness of his situation, or at least that of his family's fortunes.

Money isn't power, per se. Control over social media isn't power, per se. Voting isn't power, per se. But it's difficult to discuss power without discussing the mediums by which it's exercised and allotted. In particular, power exercised through one medium might not be readily transferred to another medium.


> The first automatic washing machines were introduced in the USA in 1937; a decade later women played important roles in wartime manufacturing during WWII, and by 1970 universities like Caltech finally opened their doors to female students.

I don't know why you picked Caltech specifically, but even confining ourselves to the US, women could attend university much earlier - a few examples from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_women's_education:

1831: As a private institution in 1831, Mississippi College became the first coeducational college in the United States to grant a degree to a woman. In December 1831 it granted degrees to two women, Alice Robinson and Catherine Hall.

1855: University of Iowa becomes the first coeducational public or state university in the United States.

1866: Sarah Jane Woodson Early became the first African-American woman to serve as a professor. Xenia, Ohio's Wilberforce University hired her to teach Latin and English in 1866.

1870: The Board of Regents of the University of California ruled that women should be admitted on an equal basis with men. With the completion of North and South Halls in 1873, the university relocated to its Berkeley location with 167 male and 22 female students.


> AI-assisted robotic automation in particular - could have a similar societal impact by eliminating many jobs and concentrating wealth in the hands of the owners of the manufacturing lines

"will" is an unnecessary word. That started happening with the electronics revolution in 1970s triggering the robotics revolution and automating factories. That's the reason for increasing wealth concentration. Which, the Western governments tried to combat by floating the economy on debt. That blew up in 2008. So here we are, living the aftermath of the crash of capitalism that Marx said would happen due to increasing technology and automation putting majority of people out of work and there remaining no way for them to buy the products that the economy produces, putting the economy into a crisis.


> It's possible that some new technology - AI-assisted robotic automation in particular - could have a similar societal impact by eliminating many jobs and concentrating wealth in the hands of the owners of the manufacturing lines, although this would seem to be a self-defeating outcome as fewer people would be able to purchase the output.

We are already seeing this outcome. About 2/3 (!) of Americans live paycheck to paycheck [1], 56% of Americans have less than 1000$ in liquid savings for emergencies [2]. In Europe, the situation is better because we have somewhat decent social safety nets, but not that much (e.g. in Germany, thanks to inflation, record numbers of people depend on charities like food banks [6] which are essentially funded by donations from large supermarket chains).

At the same time, a lot of the largest employers [3] in the US - especially Amazon, Target and Walmart - stand to benefit massively from automation gains... meaning that a lot of their staff will be made redundant as technology improves. Amazon is continuously investing in warehouse automation to replace human "pickers", and supermarket chains are investing in automation e.g. to spot spills [4] or monitor shelves for stuff out of stock [5].

Individual companies are not to blame for this per se: capitalism incentivizes a company to reduce costs wherever possible. The answer to the resulting shift of profits and wealth, however, must be in politics - and to be honest, if the wealth gap keeps rising with people like Bezos or Musk being worth hundreds of billions of dollars each while the 99% lose their homes and die because they can't afford basic medicine like insulin, if politics don't do anything, social unrest will only keep growing. Occupy Wall Street, the 2016 election of the 45th, French Yellow Vest protests - they all were, at their core, protests against this wealth disparity, against the effective neo-feudalism towards which we have devolved.

And to make the situation even worse than it already is: taxpayers worldwide will have to pay down the enormous bills from COVID relief debt and investments to combat climate change (e.g. constructing new power grids and renewable-energy plants), the followup costs of the Russian invasion in Ukraine and potentially a third world war - but there is no sign at all in any Western country that the rich will pay their fair share for all this crap.

[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/11/two-thirds-of-americans-live...

[2] https://www.cnbc.com/2022/01/19/56percent-of-americans-cant-...

[3] https://largest.org/misc/employers-usa/

[4] https://mashable.com/article/stop-and-shop-marty-robots

[5] https://www.roboticsbusinessreview.com/retail-hospitality/5-...

[6] https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/situation-tafeln-101.html


"eliminating many jobs and concentrating wealth in the hands of the owners of the manufacturing lines, although this would seem to be a self-defeating outcome as fewer people would be able to purchase the output."

Modern economic theory is a fig leaf over the raw reality of resource allocation. A better fig leaf than most, but still a fig leaf. In particular, there are many macro metastable equilibrium points, post-WW2 middle-class America being the exception rather than the rule. Fewer people, true, but with vastly higher purchase power than the masses.


> About 2/3 (!) of Americans live paycheck to paycheck [1], 56% of Americans have less than 1000$ in liquid savings for emergencies [2].

Considering how high American incomes tend to be compared to the rest of the world, this seems like a culture of spendthrift irresponsibility.


American incomes - particularly in tech - sound so high for the rest of the world, but Americans have to account for healthcare expenses, pension contributions, "emergency funds" when you are out sick for longer time than the pittances most companies offer as "PTO", the insane housing costs, car payment and taxes on them.

Meanwhile, the rest of the developed Western world has the government provide healthcare, pension systems, actual sick time that also accounts for longer periods, public transport so you can get away without a car...


Right, which means on top of lower incomes, people in "the rest of the developed Western world" also pay higher taxes. And yet they still somehow have higher savings rates.

It's a cultural issue.


The wealth distributions are different. For example, minimum pay is higher in other western nations. The richest people are richer in the US but the poor people are poorer. So depending on how you cherry pick incomes/wealth you can show whatever you want. I personally care more about how a nation treats its poor than how wealthy the most wealthy people are. But YMMV of course.


If you measure by median household income, the US is towards the top. So when you see a statistic that says more than 50% of US households live paycheck to paycheck, that’s a choice, because the median US household doesn’t have to live paycheck to paycheck.


Yep its the same in other rich western countries. People spend more than they earn and have very little financial literacy. If they put 10% aside every month and invested wisely their long term financial situation would be dramatically better. But it requires longer term thinking. Not a common trait.


> If they put 10% aside every month and invested wisely their long term financial situation would be dramatically better.

To use a 200 year old quote: "They should eat cakes instead".

Someone with absolutely no money to spare absolutely cannot set aside 10% of their income - and even if they manage to do so, it's all one healthcare or other emergency away from being wiped out.


That’s obvious of course. If you have no money then you can’t invest for the future. However the majority of people living in rich western countries most definitely can put 10% or even 20% aside every month by lowering the living standards accordingly.


Someone making the median household income in the US can absolutely afford to set aside 10% of their income.


> A GPS device on your phone is designed to get you where you need to go, and it does that. It was not designed to weaken your sense of direction and make you dependent upon it to feel safe in urban or rural areas. Yet it also does that.

It frustrated me so deeply when Google removed the compass from their maps application in order to add some buttons to report speed traps or whatever. For a couple years there, the only way to keep any sort of orientation while driving in unfamiliar areas was to make the map always point north regardless of where I was driving.

But, remarkably, enough people complained that they brought the compass back.


I heard Daniel on a podcast, so I will summarize my understanding of the theory for potential readers: technology is a tool which leverages resource extraction and control, and the people who wield that tool define what values are normative within society; those who disagree do not control resources, and so the value system reflects (and rationalizes) those who control the tools.


> technology is a tool which leverages resource extraction and control

What an absurdly reductionist viewpoint.

Yes, the invention of the box camera did spur changes in, say, the normative definition of privacy in the public sphere. But in doing so it hardly “leverage[d] resource extraction and control”. And most people concerned about it, even if they didn’t own a camera themselves, certainly had access to other resources.

And what about the pulley or the inclined plane? Come on.

Adding accelerometers to phones had wonderful and (potentially) dangerous consequences, but ridiculous nonsense like his framing makes it harder to make assessment and judgement.


> But in doing so it hardly “leverage[d] resource extraction and control”

Actually, it did. Maybe not in the ways you'd think on inspection.

Prior to cameras, the only way to get a reliable portrait was to hire a skilled painter -- so cameras transferred extraction and control of portraiture from skilled painters to photographers, which meant the barrier to entry into portraiture got lowered significantly, especially so as the price of cameras continued to drop.

In other words, camera technology democratized the ability to produce representative imagery by significantly lowering the barrier to entry.


I agree with your analysis of how things rolled out! But I think it's pretty clear that the use of "resource extraction" in the case we're talking about is control by "Capital" of natural resources and the concomitant chokepoint/control over labor and the general public. Not the more general use of the term "resource" which you are pointing at.

I'm trying hard not to use the M word because it usually leads to flaming and not reasonable discussion.


I'm not used to thinking of things in the terms in which "M"ism (as you put it) casts them. He had some interesting ideas, but his idea of an ideal society (and how to get there) doesn't correspond to reality.

He was fundamentally wrong in how he views capitalist societies -- particularly his ignorance of the middle class and how access by literally anyone to equity and capital markets affects society.

Power always concentrates to a few (the Pareto principle alone assures us of this, not to mention unequal distribution of 10,000 other differentiating characteristics between individuals). The question isn't whether that happens, but how and under what terms. When a middle class of educated business owners and professionals exists, and a government that ensures peaceful rule-of-law, a society looks nothing like anything "M" describes.


To me it's not technology, it's how that technology is funded.

Social media technology? 100% political.

Well management technology? 100% a-political.

If your technology is based on funding from a group that has no spine whatsoever (e.g. 99% of ad purchasers out there), then your technology is at the whim of the latest angry tweet.

If your technology is based on funding from a group that is firmly rooted in reality, then nobody cares about politics because they're dealing with something much more important.


Technology means power and power is never apolitical.


What are the politics involved with a large stick used as a lever or boiling water to purify it? Any delusional obstinace can make anything political, like the value of pi.


100% agreed. For an example of water management tech, "rooted in reality", but still clearly influenced/poisoned by political forces: https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2022/06/susie-lee-congr... .


> Well management technology? 100% a-political.

"Wells" as in water wells? Or wellness management?


Isn't this a fairly trivial insight though?

Same as saying that everything anyone, or any organization, does is political.

Which may be the literal case, but we have to maintain some cutoff threshold to make the phrase meaningful and tractable to think about.

Otherwise, scratching the left or right side of your nose may be a political statement and preferring a trackpad or a mouse may be a statement regarding values.

"Technology that has Y net impact on more than X number of people is not values neutral" may be a better phrasing.

And the challenge will be to find broad agreement for X and Y.


It’s only a trivial insight if you agree. Most people don’t. I have worked with many developers who believe that whatever they value is obviously the right values and everybody else just don’t get it. Every time a developer claims they have made a “rational” choice you know you are seeing one of them in their natural inhabitant.


> It’s only a trivial insight if you agree. Most people don’t.

Do you mean it's only a trivial insight if you already know it?

> I have worked with many developers who believe that whatever they value is obviously the right values and everybody else just don’t get it. Every time a developer claims they have made a “rational” choice you know you are seeing one of them in their natural inhabitant.

Some of the most pernicious ideological-adherents are the ones who don't realize their beliefs are an ideology, and instead confuse it for reality (or that their values are the only valid values). They have a really hard time understanding anything else, or analyzing their own beliefs.

You see this a lot with people who read a couple libertarian pop-econ books and then run around like everything is a simple question of supply, demand, and prices and that an ideal free market is "values neutral." It's also common in other areas, through (e.g. most deeply-polarized people of whatever party, "the reality-based community", etc.).


Yep agree. Always be aware of simple solutions to complex problems. Economics as you say is a great example of this. There are more than 9 major schools of economics. All of them disagreeing with each other and with people promoting each one with the dogmatic frenzy of religious fanatics.


>I have worked with many developers who believe that whatever they value is obviously the right values and everybody else just don’t get it.

My go-to example of developer hubris is all the language-mangling technology I have to work around everyday, because it's on by default: auto-complete, phrase suggestions, fuzzy searching, etc. I'm perfectly capable of expressing my intent. I don't need a computer to say "well, um, actually I know you really want something else."


> Otherwise, scratching the left or right side of your nose may be a political statement and preferring a trackpad or a mouse may be a statement regarding values.

This isn't keeping things tractable, it's keeping them rational. You're not required to limit your scope to remain rational. In fact, the claim that scope has to be limited can be a way to intentionally exclude things from being evaluated rationally.

If there's a reasonable way that the orientation of a nose scratch can have political implications, then it should be considered. There's not one, though, so we don't really have to worry about it. But I fear that the criterion you're using for your nose-scratching example is the "Oh, come on..." criterion. If someone comes up with a real argument that there's a right way to scratch your nose, you don't exclude it because of "really?"


The limitation argument applies to the meaning of the word political rather than the application of the concept. While one can look at the political angle of anything, describing everything as political means the label "political" ceases to have any meaning whatsoever.

If everything is political then what's not political? Definitionally nothing. So saying "X is political" becomes equivalent to "X is".

This is a specific case of a broader truth, which is that expanding the definition of a category lowers the information entropy of that category.


>Isn't this a fairly trivial insight though? >Same as saying that everything anyone, or any organization, does is political.

The are both trivial (e.g. post-modernism) and non-trivial (e.g. McLuhan, Postman, Ellul) versions of this idea. They have vastly different implications.

All software engineers would benefit from at least some understanding of the non-trivial versions.

For example, I've heard many engineers seriously suggest that it would be for the benefit of the whole society if traditional publishing would collapse and be completely replaced by self-publishing on Amazon. When they say that they have all the imagined benefits right in front of their mind's eye. (Everyone can publish! Cheap books! Fast/digital delivery!) Simultaneously, it's blatantly obvious that they haven't spent even a minute thinking about what that would lead to. (Hypercentralization. Turning books from artefacts to services. Complete demolition of the highly evolved ecosystem that produced good books in the past.) This is how tech people are trained to think.

Extend this example. Search for some articles or comments debating eReaders. Pretty much none of them ever consider anything beyond the immediate tactile experience and convenience. I mean, even people who argue in favor of physical books.


Well that is understandable since most people are, at best, amateurs outside of their field of expertise, and sometimes within too.

But thankfully not everyone's opinion is of equal competence nor should they be treated as if they were of equal competence. And we don't have to spend much time worrying about these folks.

For example, if thousands in positions of importance started advocating to replace the publishing industry that would be worrying.

But I highly doubt several thousand disgruntled junior folks could destroy the publishing industry, even if they combined their efforts and committed their all to it. And I would bet very few of these folks would ever climb into positions of real importance so they aren't much of a latent threat either.


> Isn't this a fairly trivial insight though?

Outside of HN it is.

Here the only technology that is ever seen with some skepticism is the blockchain. Everything else is golden.


The downvotes are telling.


Git is blockchain though.


In Accepting an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame a few years ago, General David Sarnoff made this statement: “We are too prone to make technological instruments the scapegoats for the sins of those who wield them. The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they are used that determines their value.” That is the voice of the current somnambulism. Suppose we were to say, “Apple pie is in itself neither good nor bad; it is the way it is used that determines its value.” Or, “The smallpox virus is in itself neither good nor bad; it is the way it is used that determines their value.” That is, if the slugs reach the right people firearms are good. If the TV tubes fire the right ammunition at the right people it is good. I am not being perverse. There is simply nothing in the Sarnoff statement that will bear scrutiny, for it ignores the nature of the medium, of any and all media, in the true Narcissus style of one hypnotized by the amputation and extension of his own being in a new technical form. General Sarnoff went on to explain his attitude to the technology of print, saying that it was true that print caused much trash to circulate, but it had also disseminated the Bible and the thoughts of seers and philosophers. It has never occurred to General Sarnoff that any technology could do anything but add itself on to what we already are.

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (p. 11)


> Smartphones were designed with the values of communication and access to information in mind. The smartphone has become central to human existence because humans highly value communication and information.

No they were not. The author uses "values" too liberally. Those features were in mind but the only value behind the decision to pursue these features is profit from the producer perspective and convenience from a consumer perspective. The same basic principles of supply/demand economics govern commercial technology.

The smartphone is not central to human existence. Billions don't even have access to the internet, hundreds of millions don't have electricity. Even if you take the west alone, most people believe it or not function just fine without smartphones. Both the entertainment and communication aspects are available on laptops. Even without the internet many americans still use dvds! Voice calls and sms. I go out of my way to succesfully avoid using smartphones for any work related purposes (and I work in infosec) successfully. I use uber/uber-eats, airbnb and many other popular apps but they all merely add a convenience. I still eat at restaurants, used taxis and car rentals in recent memory as well as hotels. I do use GPS a lot but I have no problem using a paper map.

Regarding the overall premise of the article: bicycles enabled the women rights movement and cars enabled suburbia and "white flight" and many other features of modern western life. These are effects not values as is with the internet and smartphones. I argue that tech is values neutral unless profit and convenience are what you mean by values. People spread conspiracy about climate change, flate earth and anti-vaccine theories on the same smartphones and internet people use to do the opposite. In other words, technology is usually created out of convenience. Even nuclear tech was created because it was more convenient to use it to win a war than fire bombing and invasion campaigns. Just like bicycles were created because they get you there faster than walking, not specifically to enable women. Make things that are profitable because they solve an in inconvenience and maybe good willed people will be enabled to do good with it.

The author mixes effect with values.


I find it interesting that the author did not list “writing” as one of those technologies that is not value neutral.

Writing basically allowed the creation of the bureaucratic state. Without writing/record keeping, large organizations are pretty much impossible.


If writing fits your definition of "technology" then the word loses every meaning.


Not the OP, but permanent record of past events is definitely a technology, regardless if the underlying medium is papyrus or a solid state drive. Much like a weapon covers a wide spectrum of sophistication, from a crude wooden club to HIMARS.

For vast majority of our species' existence, we had no ability to record events permanently, and, as the OP says, this technology enabled the first states to collect taxes and grow beyond a certain natural modest size.


I don't see how a definition of technology that does not encompass writing could ever be useful.


This is a fun illustration of the sociological argument for social constructivism, that we shape the technology we use into having the social effects that we desire. Interesting to compare it to the other longstanding idea of technological determinism, how we shape our society around the technology produced.

Knowing which side is producing the social effects could go a long way to alleviating the stresses new technology has built onto our societies. I Would be excited to see who would actively work or fund such a project and whether it would actually produce any results.


The use of the word "we" seems suspect in both of your paragraphs. These aren't things that "we" decide. The combined entity of humans+technology is fairly autonomous now. Legislation does nothing to stop it. Like the internet, humans+technology considers legislation damage and routes around it. Our sense of control in the face of this is an illusion.


> A GPS device on your phone is designed to get you where you need to go, and it does that. It was not designed to weaken your sense of direction and make you dependent upon it to feel safe in urban or rural areas. Yet it also does that.

I never had any reliable sense of direction and felt safe in urban or rural areas :-] Now we have affordable GPS devices and that's awesome. The only bad thing about it is Google/whoever always spying on your location.


"I never had any reliable sense of direction and felt safe in urban or rural areas"

Is this an inevitability though? Maybe there really are some people who have barriers about spatial thinking who would never be able to learn to navigate, but I think there's a large group in the middle who tell themselves they "have no sense of direction", and just mindlessly use GPS their entire adult life because they've never put in the bare minimum of effort required to plan and execute a trip without it.


Technology is not values neutral.

For example, this chicken collection system from hell:

(warning: viewer discretion is advised) https://youtu.be/sH3BZu7Qez0?t=398

Clearly there is engineering involved, but you can see how the design has no regard for the chickens.


"Future technologies must be designed according to methods that take human value and experience seriously enough to be constrained by their limits - such as sanity, dignity, and justice."

This would require an incentive for long-term systems thinking and cooperation.

Turning a profit at the expense of human sanity, dignity and justice is far easier, which is the definition of success today. It's hard to make money without unintentionally causing harm, intentionally doing it however makes it easier. Unless there is an effective oversight, but there rarely is, especially for new markets.

Like Y Combinator here, and many other venture capitalists turning a profit on cryptocurrency scams. They are doing harm, but they can't say no to opportunities, that would just create more incentives for their competitors to say yes. Inflicting a few of the thousand cuts routinely inflicted on society is the government's problem anyway. To be fair it can be trully hard to avoid harm, or even figure out what's the harm, if any. Our world is rather big and complex. I'm just saying that there is a selection for not even trying to, because someone else just wouldn't, and it's a competitive advantage not to.


> Like Y Combinator here, and many other venture capitalists turning a profit on cryptocurrency scams

Thats precisely how the current Internet was funded, developed and evolved. There are a similar, even higher amount of scams and failed attempts in the Internet's earlier history when compared to crypto.

The progress will be the same - out of dozens of scams and hundreds of failed crypto attempts, one startup will invent one use case that the public gets on board, and that will set the standard.


The internet is like building a city, obviously such a thing creates a potential for harm, but if you design it correctly it will be much more. It's something that can support an entire economy.

Crypto has no such potential, it couldn't support a restaurant. It can only support speculative financial products, mainly pumping and dumping. Blockchain technologies can eliminate the double spending problem trustlessly and tolerate a large amount of faulty or malicious nodes by making the voting power depend on the computation effort, but such a heavy-handed approach is not needed for most services. They either don't have a double spending problem (if they only have invariant confluent transactions they don't require consensus at all) or they only have a small amount of nodes.

Blockchain technologies ultimately can only give you confidence in their immutability, though the blockchain can be forked away from any point, which is what happened to Ethereum. Money buys you voting power and let's you sway the stewards of the network, which is fundamentally inequal and unfair.

https://ethereumclassic.org/why-classic

The point is that I don't want this to be the future, this technology is fundamentally inefficient and unfair.


Anything that gets used by people interested in power, ceases to be value neutral.


> Most people today have built their lives around the choices made possible by the smartphone.

This seems greatly exaggerated.


This seems more directed towards parts of Silicon Valley than the rest of the world. The EU recognized that technology = politics long ago, and has been in a race with China on defining global norms.

The "GDPR effect" will be seen in many other areas in the coming years, and I (as a EU technology-focused diplomat) feel that most US corps haven't realized the scale of what's lurking around the corner.

https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/digital-se... https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-european-union-ai-act...


This sounds like the usual conflation of "technology" and "social movements adjacent to technology."

Digital computers are technology, smartphones are a social movement.

The internet is technology, Reddit is a social thing.

GPS (the system that gives you a fix using satellites) is technology, everyone relying on turn by turn navigation is a social movement.


Whatever your definition of “social movement” is (which appears at the very least, quite peculiar), you seem to be implying those two things are well defined, unrelated, things, and they're not.

You can make up whatever categories you feel are useful (the author here chooses to include values as part of technology, by example), but don't forget that categories tend to make people overestimate the difference between things.




Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: