Decent Tech and Activism 2.0
The world is looking rather bleak these days, don’t you think?
From pollution to public health, the life-threatening challenges that we were warned about decades ago are no longer conceptual concerns that our children and our grandchildren may face one day. We are experiencing the detrimental effects of climate change, systemic corruption, social injustice, accumulating pollution, and countless other global issues. But these issues aren’t staying on the world stage. Rather, some of us are seeing them knock on our doorsteps, like a wolf in the night creeping around our neighborhoods with a mind to swallow us up whole. But why is this all happening? And what can we as decent people do to stop it?
We are seeing an increased frequency, size, and destruction of wildfires across the West. Same goes for the hurricanes across the Southeast and the tornadoes of the Midwest. The global COVID-19 pandemic isn’t giving way any time soon — it is time for an all-hands-on-deck effort to make this world a safer, healthier, and happier place to live.
But, of course, all hands-on deck has historically excused the captain. And in America, our captain is the federal government. Our leaders remain behind by filling the status quo and doing very little, or nothing at all. In fact, they actively refuse to not implement measures to stop our most threatening environmental hazards from getting worse.
However, there is a steady and trustworthy solution we can turn to. No, not our political or economic leadership: decentralized digital technology.
Millennials and Gen-Zers grew up watching their government and economic systems fail because politicians and business leaders either live in denial or put their profits before the people. But we’re a resilient bunch, and those of us most impacted by the failures of our centralized political institutions aren’t just taking it lying down. We are now seeing a mass mobilization of people innovating new ways to harness decentralized technologies (“decent tech”) in the form of environmental activism from the grassroots.
Digital technology is growing increasingly decentralized, and as is our opportunity. The implication of useful and problem-solving technology does demand that we think more deeply about decentralized technology as a tool that increases our power to stimulate positive change. That starts from the grassroots.
Decent tech innovators have distributed the power to make positive change throughout our communities and across the world. Using applications of blockchain technology, artificial intelligence (AI), edge computing, and the billions of devices in the Internet of Things (“IoT”), our centralized institutions’ pervasive failures to protect the environment are more irrelevant than ever. It also helps change our mind set to think more deeply about the decent tech and digital devices we can use as tools that increase political, social, and economic power.
The world has seen a proliferation in technology since the first industrial revolution, and over the centuries increasingly sophisticated technologies have changed the way we live, work, and interact with each other. Many people question whether we are better off for it, given the unintended consequences technology has had on us. Our privacy and personal dignity have eroded. Viral misinformation perverts our democratic processes. The internet is just as much a playground for hackers and cybercriminals as it is a sandbox for innovators and entrepreneurs.
Reasonable minds can reasonably differ regarding whether our society is better off for all the progress we have seen in digital technology over the decades. But all such critiques aside, modern technology has made water cleaner, sanitation healthier, air purer, and the environment safer for billions of people around the world. Digital solutions to real-world problems have extended the length of and improved the qualities of physical lives. And more to the point, technology has helped local communities solve their most pressing social and environmental problems — which are largely ignored by the higher-ups. In fact, computing technology is the best tool we have to protect ourselves when the people we put in power simply won’t.
We can do this by using the power of digital technologies to mobilize effective grassroots movements. And thanks to the growing trend towards decentralization, this is getting easier every day. In fact, the increasing number of technological tools that do not require lasting association with a centralized controlling organization — i.e. decent tech- are the most powerful weapons in the modern advocate’s arsenal.
About the Author:
Samantha Joule Fow is fascinated by the disruptive nature of technology, and her focus on environmental advocacy is a natural extension of her training and education in environmental policy as well as her passion for nature and the outdoors. After completing her undergraduate studies in economics, Samantha went on to earn a J.D., a Master’s in Energy Regulation and Law, and an LL.M in Environmental Law from Vermont Law School. Samantha founded technical writing and digital marketing company Axiom Communications in 2017, and she continues to advocate for positive social and environmental change as a writer, facilitator, teacher, and speaker. To see more of Samantha’s work, check out her other online publications.
Originally published at https://bedecentbook.com on October 14, 2020.