My thanks to Paul Evans and Memeserver for posting a link to the excellent RSA visualisation of Evgeny Morozov’s critique of cyberutopianism. I mentioned his book in January 2011 in Brave Old World and started reading it as soon as Amazon delivered it.
I think it’s important t that Morozov concludes the book with a question:
“while it’s becoming apparent that policymakers need to abandon both cyber-utopianism and Internet-centrism, if only for the lack of accomplishment, it is not yet clear what can take their place. What would an alternative, more down-to-earth approach to policymaking in the digital age – let’s call it cyber-realism – look like?”
He then offers some notes to focus the minds on the politics and social, rather seeing technology as the silver bullet. This all comes across a bit like the Adam Curtis series recently broadcast on BBC2 “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace“, which also supports a less engineered world view.
Drawing down on this concept that technology is not the silver bullet, we then have to accept (if we are to remain idealistic) that another way is possible. This other way may make use of the technology, but not see it as the be-all and end-all, but just the tool it is. This new tool is reliant upon people fixing the existing systems to make them work before we re-engineer the engines (systems thinking rather than systems engineering). One thing Morozov and Adam Curtis’s documentary indicate is the need for flexibility of thought along with the necessary employment of feedback loops in all these situations. They also require learning from history, without the historicism.
So, what should digital-age policymaking look like?