Rufus and I are starting a mini research project on “Techno-solutionism” – What we see as the (oft-fallacious) belief that “Tech” (alone) can solve our hard societal problems.

We plan to gather examples of Techno-solutionism in a couple of specific areas such as democracy / trust and global warming / environment. For example:

  • The belief that Block Chain, Civic Tech stuff can help “fix” democracy, keep politician accountable and increase voter participation …
  • The belief that energy generation/storage technologies, Tesla, 3D printing (…) will be sufficient to help us fight climate change.

We would be happy to have your ideas & inputs on this topic. And if anyone wants to contribute to the research, please let us know !

For the moment, Here is a great take-down on civic Tech:

https://medium.com/civic-tech-thoughts-from-joshdata/so-you-want-to-reform-democracy-7f3b1ef10597

And here is Rufus’ anti- blockchain rant: http://rufuspollock.com/2017/05/11/thoughts-on-blockchain-in-geneva/

See also the recent post setting out a typology of problems which is directly relevant here: The Four Types of Problem

For me, a big problem is that Technosolutionism leads us to believe that personal sacrifices won’t be necessary to solve these hard societal problems:

  • “I won’t have to spend too much time reading through the presidential candidate’s proposal – an algorithm will tell me what my preferences are”
  • “I prefer flying to New York to do an internship on the use of new materials in renewable energy rather than staying in La Cheraille to reduce my carbon footprint.”

But, we will have a hard time solving climate change if we continue to put all of our resources into finding ways to produce MORE energy, rather than trying to consume less ourselves.

Our hypothesis: Rather than more tech innovations; hard societal problems like climate change and democracy require innovation in human coordination mechanisms, a transformation of our desires – a “transformation of our being”.

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