Tech(no)fixes beware!

Spotting (digital) tech fictions as replacement for social and political change

Friederike Hildebrandt and Rainer Rehak

Playlists: '37c3' videos starting here / audio

Tech(no)fixes distract our minds and slow down necessary change. We will give examples, explain them and show you how to spot them.

The climate catastrophe is imminent and global injustice is rising. Now a lot of new (in part digital) tech (AI, blockchain, big data, fusion, quantum computing, genetic engineering) is supposed to help the transition to a sustainable society. Although some of them can actually help with parts of the transition, they are usually discussed not as tools to assist the broader societal change (economic, legal, social, political changes) but as replacement for the broader societal change. In effect they act as "change placebos" resulting in "placebo change", meaning no change at all.

Using concrete examples, this talk wants to 1) show in which ways technological fictions are misused as diversion from the necessary change or already existing other technologies, 2) present reasons and explanations for such misuse and 3) a simple method to spot tech(no)fixes. This talk underlines the necessity to design concrete technical use cases including their social conditions and limitations in order to create a fruitful debate for sustainability-assisting technologies and actually helpful implementations.


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