Against Technology

A refrain you often hear when discussing politics/health/the future/anything at all with liberal friends is that science and technology offer solutions to the problems of the world. With enough investment in renewable energy, medicine or artificial intelligence, we can end poverty and usher in a utopian age of peace and plenty. This reminds me of Oscar Wilde’s writing that the advent of mechanized labour will mean nobody has to work and usher in a utopian age of peace and plenty – which was half right, if you interpret “nobody has to work” as “nobody gets to work” and “peace and plenty” as “unemployment and misery”.

Of course, under anarchist analysis – and maybe socialist analysis, who knows – technology is a tool, and tools get used by the people in power to perpetuate their power. With the exception of a few isolated innovations – the Internet can be a venue for rejecting or living without power for now, guys – advances in technology come hand in hand with advances in inequality.

Is anarchism inherently anti-technology? There does exist singularitarian anarchism of the form of Iain M Banks’ Culture series, where everybody does anything they want because all-powerful AI overlords look after the plumbing. Singularitarian anarchism is kind of silly, though, and the Culture is overly aspirational, barring a massive cultural shift. Doesn’t technology change culture for the better? My gut response is: no, culture adapts to better exploit technology. I might be wrong though.

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