That smartphones allow us to imprison twice the number of people at half the cost is the kind of cutting-edge innovation that only management consultants and tech entrepreneurs would be excited about. Such breakthroughs would be worth celebrating if they didn’t distract us from the more radical (and simpler) solution to the problem of overcrowded prisons: incarcerating fewer people.
Smart technologies are not just disruptive; they can also preserve the status quo. Revolutionary in theory, they are often reactionary in practice.
Smart technology, thanks to its ubiquity and affordability, offers us the cheapest — and trendiest — fix. But the gleaming aura of disruption-talk that often accompanies such fixes masks their underlying conservatism. Technological innovation does not guarantee political innovation; at times, it might even impede it. The task ahead is to prevent our imagination from being incarcerated by smart technologies. Or should we settle for gamifying ourselves to death?
Evgeny Morozov, “Imprisoned by Innovation”
Something like missionary reductionism has happened to the internet with the rise of web 2.0. The strangeness is being leached away by the mush-making process. Individual web pages as they first appeared in the early 1990s had the flavor of personhood. MySpace preserved some of that flavor, though a process of regularized formatting had begun. Facebook went further, organizing people into multiple-choice identities, while Wikipedia seeks to erase point of view entirely.
If a church or government were doing these things, it would feel authoritarian, but when technologists are the culprits, we seem hip, fresh, and inventive. People will accept ideas presented in technological form that would be abhorrent in any other form.
Jaron Lanier, You Are Not A Gadget