Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

The Future Requires More Than Technology

Say the word “futurist” and most people will think of Ray Kruzweil (featured as such on a recent cover of Time). But before Ray, there was a well-respected futurist by the name of R. Buckminster Fuller (also featured on the cover of Time, many decades ago). Moreover, he made the same mistake that Ray is making today. Bucky’s dream was the inevitability of ephemeralization: the constant shrinking—in both size and cost—of technological power. Ray believes a similar inevitable increase of computer power will result in transcendent artificial intelligence. But the problems of the future will not be solved by any inevitable progress of technology as long as powerful interests control its distribution. Bucky failed to recognize this, as does Ray.

Case in point: the Internet and our schools. Before the Internet, it was assumed the solution was to put computers into every school; now the solution is wiring every school to the Internet. Despite the addition of technology, our schools still fail the needs of their students. Clearly, technology alone, in whatever form, is not sufficient as the answer. Technology has not, and will not, close the gap between good schools and bad. This gap, which has always been and is likely to continue, is actually the gap between the haves and have-nots. That gap is the inevitable inequality of distribution.


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