What happened to the tech dream?

This post is dedicated to the original technology dreamers and honors the unique contributions of John Perry Barlow – a dreamer.

More and more it seems the dream of technology as a positive agent for change and empowerment is slipping away. Maybe the problem is that the so-called digital natives were unaware that a dream ever existed and just accept what they have experienced as the way it was and is supposed to be.

I have written on this topic several times in recent years. Mostly, these posts were brought on by the rising power of fewer and fewer tech companies and the decline of opportunities for individuals. Net neutrality is just a continuation of this trend, but you see it everywhere. Fewer and fewer organizations dominate even as they claim to not be evil or to think different and enable the crazy ones. My most recent frustration is Google’s decision to limit YouTube ad revenue to the big players, but that is another post

This post from Medium on the failed tech dream suggests that innovations fall into three categories, those that matter, those that do not matter, and those that matter in a negative way. According to the argument from this post tech falls into the “negative mattering” category – it harms people. In general the author proposes that technology is based on the promise of a better economy, but it has ended up being co-opted by an old one – extreme capitalism. The tech version of extreme capitalism has turned the users of technology into share croppers – the large number of people who contribute and consume so that a tiny number of individuals can reap extreme profits.

It is far easier to document the problem than to propose effective solutions. I suggest that the root of all evil “is the money”. In this case, a major part of the problem is that people want free without recognizing that there is no free. They offer their personal information instead of their dollars. They are frustrated that offering their personal information allows them to be targeted and manipulated, but they can’t stop because they have become dependent on services they know are bad for them. They use online services hours a day and have little idea how they work. With a little money and a little effort they could reward quality content outlets (even online newspapers), offer their own content from services they control and do not require they mine the personal information of others, and find useful content offered by other like-minded individuals (who use of technology in a similar way, not necessarily hold the same few of the world) using something like RSS. I am not against YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc., but I believe we are overly committed to these services which allows these companies to focus on their bottom line and not act to meet the actual needs of consumers.


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