Democratization? of Technology

Singularity University is a B corporation in Silicon Valley. Their goal is to encourage people and organizations to leverage technology for positive global impact, not just for building a better ad network or lining the pockets of a handful of billionaires. As Salim Ismail says, they can accomplish this through the sheer democratization of technology. Multiple innovative applications for science and tech are occurring so rapidly that traditional business and risk models no longer apply.

I agree with the statement that access to technology is having similar effects to democracy. However, I view democratic systems through a different lens than many of my peers and colleagues. The systems of fair representation that we have built have ossified into self-perpetuating machines of false majorities. My Prime Minister and my provincial Premier have the absolute power of a majority government despite their parties garnering considerably less than half the popular vote. The head of government in the US was similarly elected in a system where all votes are equal but some votes are more equal than others.

I have heard dozens of heartwarming stories of persistent individuals who took their great ideas through discouragement to success. Sometimes it’s a young man (occasionally a girl). Often it’s a serial entrepreneur who somehow keeps getting more chances to fail because he’s seen as a person who will eventually succeed through a combination of learning, determination, and sheer luck.

I don’t hear or see much about the success of indigenous or black disruptors. If a severely economically disadvantaged person with disabilities has come up with a breakthrough improving their own life and the outcomes of countless others, I would love to learn and write about it. Racialized people and members of other marginalized groups don’t have much access to power, capital, and multiple chances to change the face of society. People who more closely resemble what we’ve learned and accepted are leaders get those advantages as though it were their birthright.

Like many of my age-mates, I was raised to believe that all people have (roughly) equal value, that democratic systems at their best provide everyone a fair say in governance, and that advances in technology would give us a future better than we could possibly imagine. I’m not prepared to give up entirely on any of those ideals, flawed as they are in practice. Living in a densely populated, diverse community where there is a critical mass of people with hope and the power to make a difference inspires me. Not as a figurehead so much as someone who sees the interactions that can be gently moved in positive directions.

Technology can be democratizing in more than the limited ways it’s currently being used. The systems that feed our SpaceX and our Amazon have the inertia of a long held false majority. I believe the so-called disruptors can be made, somehow, to yield to a more widespread access to the power of exponentially improving knowledge informed by types of wisdom that haven’t been getting the voice they’ve earned.


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