How Social and Physical Technologies are Collaborators in Creation

aeon.co

Our world is a system, in which physical and social technologies co-evolve. How can we shape a process we don’t control?

One of the great strengths of open, democratic societies is that they enable and encourage the exploration of new ideas. Free markets are highly successful in creating evolutionary collaborations and competitions among ideas and technologies, and rapidly scaling up those that are economically successful. It is no accident that the explosion of innovation in physical technologies over the past two centuries emerged largely in open, free market societies. The social technologies of those societies accelerated the speed of physical technology evolution. The process has fed on itself – each new technology creates the possibility of other new technologies, and the space of possibilities for innovation opens up in a combinatorial explosion, creating our hyperexponential acceleration of physical technologies.

But the social technologies have not kept up – the impact of social media and ‘fake news’ on politics is but one recent example. Our social technologies are rapidly becoming less well-adapted to the reality of our physical technologies. As the gap between our physical and social technologies widens, the strains on society grow, and the space for anger, populism and authoritarian solutions increases.

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