Understanding and unmaking the mess man made

For the past 30 years I’ve spent a lot of time researching cybersecurity and data privacy, working with people whose job it is to protect information systems from criminals. In recent years that job has been getting much harder. Each new wave of technology fails to fix the problems with old technology, even as it creates a whole new set of problems.

Furthermore, whenever I have had a chance step outside of cyberspace, it has struck me that this has always been the way of things, in all forms of technology, not just digital, and not just for decades, but for centuries. I now believe that fundamental changes must be made to the way that technology is created, funded, and deployed.

To be blunt about it: I believe that these changes are urgently needed to prevent our planet choking to death on a surfeit of poorly conceived and badly executed technology. In short, the time has come to fix the mess we’ve made of technology, and by ‘we’ I mean men.

Who am I to talk about this? I’m the son of an engineer whose father and brother were engineers. I was born within site of a car factory in the heart of car-making country. I’ve spent four decades working in and with technology. I am a technologist. (I even have an award to prove it.)

The Sad Cycle of Technology

Here is what I see happening, time and again, across many centuries: a man perceives a problem and invents new technology to solve it. Other men decide this technology has great potential and provide resources to develop and deploy this new technology, despite some early warnings about its possible shortcomings. 

As deployment gathers pace, more warnings are sounded, but the technology now has traction. As a financial upside comes into sight, a lot of male egos - those of the inventor, investors, developers, and early adopters - fervently hype this latest and greatest technology. If warnings are sounded or doubts expressed, critics are derided as weak, nervous, lacking in the right stuff. Since the 1800s they have been denounced as Luddites.

However, over time, things start to go wrong, often in ways predicted by Luddites. Sadly, the new technology produces unwanted side effects or turns out to be less fit-for-purpose than the hype implied. The technology created to solve a problem has created new problems; yet there is no shortage of men ready to invent even more technology to solve those problems (eventually creating yet more problems).

When I searched for the root causes of this mess, I found one consistent factor: men. By studying male attitudes to technology I think we can see just how patriarchy has made such a mess of technology. 

Unmaking the mess men have made of technology

I began to research this aspect of the history and ethics of technology several years ago when I was studying for my masters in security and risk management. That research effort is ongoing, as is my quest to find ways of explaining and reversing the mess man has made of technology. 

This quest is urgent. Man-made technology threatens the future of all life of planet Earth, yet some men are still putting their faith in new technology to save us, even as the wealthiest are building the means to leave the planet behind. Frankly, men must change their ways, and soon, before it is too late.

My work on this will be shared on this website and in other publications to which I will link from here. Thankfully, I am not the only person working on this and I will share connections to the work of others as I progress. 

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