Calvin and Hobbes graced my Twitter timeline this New Year’s Eve. They left me agreeing with Calvin. Where are the flying cars and moon colonies and jet packs? We are embarking on a new decade, a new future, and yet I wonder how much has changed. I believe I am wearing a shirt I bought early in 2010s. Certainly not moon colony ready fashion.
As always, Calvin wants more. Moon colonies and zero-gravity boots might be a way off. And well weather, if anything climate change is causing more extreme weather.
Technology does continue to advance. In our homes, Alexa turns our lights on and off. We are on the verge of having very very deep fakes. Images and videos that are so convincing we are not able to tell what is real and what is not may already exist. We may not have flying cars but autonomous cars are just around the corner.
Hobbes may have a point, we may not be ready for even more advanced technology. People are having more and more trouble handling what we have rushed to create. It may not be a question of whether or not we can build flying cars but whether or not we are ready for even more advanced technology.
The next decade presents an opportunity not only to develop new gadgets but to develop more ethical technology policies. A few of my hopes for the next decade.
Data rights. I hope that we gain full control and rights over our own data. When it comes to technology, we may want to start here. We have ignored the privacy invasion of most technology. It’s unlikely we can stop the intrusion. The solution is to insist that we control our own digital footprints. Jaron Lanier discussed this in the New York Times in September.
Valuing digital content creators. I hope that we begin to value and compensate digital (and non-digital) content creators. Last winter, I wondered whether or not digital creators should unionize. All platforms from Instagram to Twitter to Youtube, depend on their creators. From the sloppiest cat video maker to the most poignant tweeter, the platforms would not exist without people posting their work. The sad truth is that most creators are not at all compensated for their time and creations. Even on platforms that do compensate creators, the amount is minimal for the effort and quality.
A dismantling of tech monopolies. Facebook, Google, Amazon at el. have grown too big. They may all be in violation of antitrust laws. Forcing them to break apart is one solution. We also need to encourage more co-operative platform ownership. Or even use platforms that are not profit-driven at all. My favorite platform is the Hugo-award winning Archive of Our Own, a non-profit community-driven fanfiction website. AO3 is a model for what a social website could be if it were built by the people using it.
More solutions to climate change. We will likely only combat climate change with a combination of political will, policy change, and technology. More and more cars are electric or hybrid. Renewable energy is more prevalent. We know what we need to do, we must have the will to do it.
My small list is a tall order. But it is not insurmountable. And yes, I would still like to try out a flying car, a jet pack, and take a vacation to the moon colony.