Exponential Tech Doesn’t Serve Social Good

Essay by Douglas Rushkoff: “We all want to do good. Well, a great many of us want to do good. We recognize that the climate is in peril, corporations are dangerously extractive, wealth disparity is at all-time highs, our kids are self-destructively addicted to social media, politics has descended into a reality TV show with paranoid features, and that civilization itself has only about another 20 years before some combination of the above threats makes life unrecognizable or even unsustainable.

The good news, at least according to the majority of invitations I get to participate in conferences and with organizations, is that there’s an app or technology or network or platform or, most often these days, a token that can fix some or all of this. The latest frame around the technosolutionist frenzy is called web 3.0, which has come to mean the decentralized sort of internet characterized by TOR networks (basically, Napster and BitTorrent where everything is hosted everywhere) and the blockchain (a new form of automated ledger).

This generation of distributed technology, it is hoped, will engender and facilitate a new era of environmental stewardship, economic equality, racial justice, democratic values, and civic harmony. Even better, the tokens at the heart of these blockchains for global good will make people rich. Sure, those who get in early will do the best, but the magic of smart contracts will somehow raise all boats, letting us feel great about doing well by doing good — secure in the knowledge that the returns we’re seeing on all this “impact investing” are the deserved surplus fruits of our having dedicated our careers and portfolios to public service.

But getting such efforts off the ground is always the hard part. There are so many terrific people and organizations out there, each building platforms and apps and networks and blockchains, too. How do we break through the noise and bring all those many decentralized organizations together into the one, single centralized decentralized network? And once we do, how do we prove that ours really is the one that will solve the problems? Because without enough buy-in, figuratively and literally, the token won’t be worth anything and all that good won’t get done….(More)”.