Is the Digital Revolution Driven by an Ideology?

Chet Bowers


The writings of computer futurist writers such as Ray Kurzweil, Eric Schmidt, Hans Moravec, and Peter Diamandis argue that the digital revolution that is “Reshaping the Future of People, Nations, and Business” (to quote the sub-title of Schmidt’s book) is being driven by the Darwinian forces of natural selection. What they do not consider is how their thinking, as well as the thinking of most computer scientists and programmers, is influenced by the metaphorical language of their culture. As language both illuminates and hides, the main focus in this essay is on the diversity of cultural ways of knowing that are being lost as people rely more on print-based data, information, and other abstract systems of representation. The assumption of the computer futurist writers that the digital revolution is an inherently progressive force is based on the same metaphorical language  that underlies such progress-oriented ideologies as libertarianism and market liberalism. These ideologies, in turn, are based on the Western Enlightenment assumption that traditions are the source of backwardness and a limitation on progress.  This same view of traditions, which ignores that the diversity of the world’s cultural commons carried forward through face to face communication are the basis of less consumer dependent and less toxic destructive lifestyles that will become more important as the ecological crisis deepens, is a key feature of the digital revolution.  The double bind is that the many important uses of digital technologies lead to the widespread indifference about the importance of living cultural traditions that are passed forward face to face and through mentoring relationships. Is the loss of privacy, communication between generations, economic security from being displaced by robots and from hackers, the diversity of cultural ways of knowing––including the exercise of ecological intelligence, to be written off in the name of progress? 


Ideology; Cultural colonization; Evolution; Computer futurists; Oral traditions; Cultural commons

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