Distributed Decentralized Technology for empowering people is still a dream!
Socio-political problems cannot be fixed by technology, however technology can facilitate and expedite the distribution of justice or disruption of social fabric. Copyleft cannot fix freedom of expression, but it will make it easy and accessible. Copyleft cannot fix abuse of media, such as distribution of indecent content or trolls. However, technology can help detect them through transparent collaborative models, and fix it faster than a centralised model where we appeal for justice through a hierarchical judicial system. Copyleft is a paradigm case of how justice can be made inherent as a protocol. Technology cannot grant RTI (right to information), but it can make RTI redundant by making information always accessible. Who will need to file an RTI on Wikipedia? Technology cannot inform us that freedom to whisper is a political necessity and so must be protected. However, technology can help us create means of efficient whispering. The idea that personal data should be protected by the state does not come from technology, but mismanagement of technology can make the personal data leak without notice is a technical lesson.
Technology that we use not only determines but also expands the action field of human beings, individually or together as a group. And so, it can transform the existing fabric of society, and often this transformation could be disruptive. Whether the action is ethical or not, is part of continuing social mediation and negotiation. Though we cannot fix this through technology, if the technology we use is proprietary, we cannot know what is being done to us in our own action space. That is why, we should never allow opaque technology to enter our lives. Public audit of all technology used in public space for a public goal must be made as a mandatory protocol by the state. Computer Hardware without open drivers should be treated as Trojan horses.
Technology grants an extended action space, which become power to those who have access to technology. In turn, this power could be used by forcing a person or even a country to become subservient or fight. Negotiating this space is the story of human history!
Human actions facilitated by technology can create resources that have exchange value. Multiple forms of currencies/coins are emerging, several of them digital, e.g. Bitcoin. The technology to mint or participate in an exchange of those coins does not seem to be accessible to commons. All of our enthusiasm to distribute justice could collapse, when a new form of currency gets into our life, while we are caught napping, which could take over all our negotiation space. On the one hand, we may feel good that corrupt governments do not have a hold of this space, but on the other hand neither does the commons. This does not seem to be a game for equity. These are also serious issues that we need to negotiate in the space of media politics.
The bottomline is: the human action space, without technology, is unimaginable. We are what we are because of our ability to create and use technology. Politics without technology, digital or not, is non-negotiable. What is negotiable is which actions are justifiable.
Dr. Nagarjuna G is a Governing body member of SFLC.in