World (ALAI) – It is already hard to imagine daily life without the innovations of the so-called digital technological “revolution” in spite of the fact that most of these innovations have proliferated over just one or two decades. How could we get along without mobile phones, without digital social networks or e-mail, without being able to search for information or do official or business procedures over the internet? Nevertheless, these are only the first steps of this transformation.
According to the technological utopia that big business promises us, very soon we will be able to make purchases with our mobile so a drone can deliver them to our home; we could have a self-parking car, or a robot that cleans the house and warns us if thieves break in. This supposed utopia comes hand-in-hand with a darker side: that of unlimited surveillance, vulnerable security, indiscriminate collection of personal data that further enriches mega-enterprises, massive loss of jobs through robots and automation, or the non-transparent algorithms — not always efficient or equitable –, that are ruling ever more aspects of our societies.
The fact is that in recent years, as more aspects of social and personal activity are digitalized, a good part of these innovations have been taken over by large monopolies (most of them from the United States), leading to an unprecedented concentration of power. Evidence of this is the fact that, according to the Bloomberg agency, in December of 2015, five of the 10 corporations with the highest stock-market value come from the technological sector; moreover, Apple, Alphabet/Google and Microsoft occupy the three first places, displacing the transnational oil companies.
At the same time, this consumerist utopia is very different from the one that characterized the beginnings of the Internet. Once it moved beyond its military origins, the network of networks was to a large extent developed as a collaborative initiative, controlled and designed mainly by civil society actors and academic sectors that conceived it under principals of democratization, horizontality and the free exchange of knowledge. In many areas, this focus has continued to be developed, with initiatives such as free software, open content and public platforms of interchange of knowledge and ideas. But as the Internet has gained in massiveness, it has become a terrain where the formerly public and self-managed spaces are now fenced in by private platforms, such as digital social networks, subject to the rules and algorithms imposed by Facebook, Twitter and the like.