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Institute Techno-solutionism

Techno-solutionism: tech alone can solve our wicked problems

We are starting a mini research project on “techno-solutionism”: the belief that “tech” (alone) can solve our hard societal problems. This belief is increasingly prevalent in our tech-dominated age but is one we believe is often fallacious.

We plan to gather examples of techno-solutionism in a specific areas such as democracy, environmental/climate crisis. For example:

  • The belief that civic tech or blockchain can help “fix” democracy, keep politician accountable, increase voter participation, solve the free rider problem etc …
  • The belief that energy generation/storage technologies, Tesla, solar (on their own) 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:

And here is Rufus’ series of blockchain-critical posts: https://rufuspollock.com/2016/07/02/reflections-on-the-blockchain/ (and follow up)

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

Also key to reference is Evgeny Morozov who has literally written the book(s) on techno-solutionism.

For us, a big problem is that Techno-solutionism 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 and a transformation of our desires – a “transformation of being”.

Appendix: Examples