Tom Friedman: Blame Technology for Recent Social Upheaval

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 15 2011 12:16 PM

Tom Friedman: Blame Technology for Recent Social Upheaval

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Photo Illustration by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

In his New York Times column yesterday, Tom Friedman argued that technology is responsible for the riots in England, the Tea Party’s rise in the United States, the protests in Spain, the revolutions in the Middle East—but not for the tired “social media allows us to organize” reasons. Or, at least, not just because Twitter and smartphones make it easier to coordinate protests and looting alike.

Friedman writes, “The merger of globalization and I.T. is driving huge productivity gains, especially in recessionary times, where employers are finding it easier, cheaper and more necessary than ever to replace labor with machines, computers, robots and talented foreign workers.” Meanwhile, social media has allowed for the “globalization of anger.” And, yes, of course, smartphones and Twitter have also made it easier to plan expressions of that anger at the economic doldrums I.T. hath wrought for those of us not in charge.

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It’s an interesting attempt to connect various I.T. and global trends, but I wonder: Now what? Illuminating the nexus between the rise in technology and the rise of unrest is just the first step. What, exactly, can we do about it, short of sabotaging innovation as an artificial means of creating stability?

Read more in the New York Times.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

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