Technology is transforming where, when, and with whom we work and play. Cities are becoming “smart,” robots are finding jobs, and digital platforms aren’t just replacing, but redefining how individuals, businesses, and communities interact.
Nobody has voted for these changes, let alone fully understands their implications, as every positive outcome usually comes with a cost…like privacy, the nature of employment, and even our ability to talk to one another.
Much of the technology transformation is happening at the infrastructure level, and is noted publicly only when it yields a consumer or workplace benefit, so the full story is never shared. Sometimes, the tech is so complex that not even its proponents fully understand its implications, let alone know how to communicate them.
And here and there, the advocates for technological transformation hide or ignore the truth, whether from ignorance or willful disregard, and its outcomes are presented as a fait accompli.
This situation presents two major challenges:
In 1896, William Jennings Bryan closed his populist speech at the Democratic National Convention attacking monetary policy as a tool of oppression, and said:
“You shall not press down on the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind on a cross of gold.”
Can public engagement today avert populist opposition to a Cross of Silicon?