As technology changes the world at an accelerating pace, concerns arise about how well society is prepared to deal with these developments.
An early August working group, “Envisioning New Modes of Cultural and Technological Change,” seeks to examine the challenges posed by a growing disconnect between technological change and societal institutions, and to propose possible solutions to some of these issues.
“Cultural change is lagging technological change,” explains organizer and SFI External Professor Doyne Farmer, Co-Director, Complexity Economics, The Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School. “That manifests itself in lots of ways. Institutions aren’t adapting fast enough. How do we deal with social media, reality bubbles, fake news, automation, rapid formation of digital monopolies, and increasing inequality driven by these things? These are issues we think center around that basic problem.”
Social media and the rise of fake news, a subject of discussion since the past election season, provides one area for further examination in the working group. New technologies are replacing older ones in shaping people’s views of the world, but without a corresponding mechanism to regulate or balance the changes.
“Facebook operates under different regulations than Fox News, is treated in a different way, even though it’s operating in a similar domain,” says Farmer.
Facebook presents another change accompanying technology: large companies that require few employees and where increasing size doesn’t significantly increase costs, promoting monopolistic conditions.
Plus, some of the issues dominating Facebook newsfeeds in the last election, such as the decline of the coal industry and loss of manufacturing jobs, are discussed in terms of immigration policy or government regulation, when the largest driver is really technological change.
“It’s important to have workshops like this to identify problems, find ways to deal with them, and improve the narrative,” says Farmer. “There are a lot of areas in which things are changing and society is not adapting or is adapting in dysfunctional ways.”
Read about the working group, Envisioning New Modes of Cultural and Technological Change, happening at SFI.