Geek Heretic takes on Google: It’s not the technology, stupid!

Toyama is not against technology. He just think its promise to cure the world's ills is being grossly exaggerated and advocates are neglecting the downside of these new tools. As he's said many times, "technology just amplifies human intention," which can be good or bad.
Kentaro Toyama
Kentaro Toyama

Our resident Geek Heretic Kentaro Toyama, a renowned computer scientist and former top executive at Microsoft Research, has decided to take on the gist of a new book on technology’s promise by Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen in an article for The Atlantic.

The article is entitled Our Future Might Be Bright: The Tentative, Rosy Predictions of Google’s Eric Schmidt though he did consider giving it the title ‘It’s Not the Technology, Stupid!’ which we here at Humanosphere like better. Read on to see why … Toyama says:

A new book by Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas director Jared Cohen plots out the future of digital technology, with an emphasis on global affairs. The New Digital Age foresees, in the not too distant future that, though wars may become more common as the costs to engage decrease, death tolls will fall as robot soldiers take to the battlefield. The book envisions whole governments being backed up in the online cloud where data becomes less vulnerable to physical disaster….

Unfortunately, the book is only the latest in what seems to be a growing strain of punditry: Technology proponents conceding technology’s dark side so that they can disarm readers into accepting their worldview, one in which the advance of technology is still the key to a better future.

We’ve done a lot of stories here at Humanosphere on Toyama, in part because we think he’s brilliant and because — despite his street creds as a super geek — he seems to remain a voice crying in the wilderness. Toyama is not against technology. He just think its promise to cure the world’s ills is being grossly exaggerated and advocates are neglecting the downside of these new tools. As he’s said many times, “technology just amplifies human intention,” which can be good or bad.

Here’s a recent podcast interview we did with Toyama, as well as our story in which I first dubbed him the geek heretic. It stuck.

Humano_changeup - CopyNOTE TO SEATTLE-BASED HUMANOSPHERIANS: Kentaro and Jon Scanlon of Oxfam are hosting a resurrected ChangeUp May 16 at Paddy Coyne’s Pub, the 1190 Thomas Street location, starting at 6 pm. It’s co-sponsored by Humanosphere and Global Washington … but Kentaro and Jon are doing all the work. Drinks are on you.

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About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.