Humans discover fire


What’s this, another blog from Thinking Digital 2019? Yes, my fourth from this year’s event. I am sure I will squeeze one or two more.

The thing is that there is so much to cover. It would be easy to write about what the speakers are saying but I find it more interesting to blog about some of the underlying themes that come out of the event. During the presentations something will be said, a word or phrase that runs like lightning through my brain.

So it was when Dave Erasmus, a self-proclaimed and undeniable denizen of earth said that ‘It has always been the way that  humans discover fire and then learn how not to burn our house down with it.’

To me this emphasises the continuous tension between technology and humanity in that innovation works to cover a need yet, as soon as it leaves the factory gates others have found an alternative use for it. Bread knives don’t just cut bread for example.

Our recent digital technological advances have enabled humanity to do things it could never have dreamed of. The Internet has provided a vehicle for increasing knowledge, communication and entertainment yet has provided a platform for terrorists, peadophiles and radicals of all persuasions.

Online trading has driven prices down and increased access to products to a much wider audience yet it has seriously harmed the high street, while social media has engaged people in new ways yet could turn out to have irreparably damaged our political system.

Government, social and political systems are struggling to keep pace with the ever changing, technologically driven landscape. Indeed, the nation state is proving itself unfit for purpose in dealing with an ever globalised world.

This does not make technology good or bad. It just is and it is people that choose to use it for the light or dark side. This will always be the case and we should not curtail our technological advances on the back of such fears. We should however be working equally as hard to ensure society and governance keep pace with the intended and unintended consequences.

Now what did I do with that fire extinguisher?

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