The Accursed Sovereign

“Technological Leadership”

Posted in Criticism, Kibble, Political Philosophy by bradishn on July 19, 2011

I recently attended a panel discussion on New Zealand’s endeavor to vastly expand its broadband fiberoptics network.  At one point, the phrase “technological leadership” was spoken.  I can’t remove it from my thought.

At first approach, I think technological leadership may be a contradiction of terms.  Leadership, if I understand it correctly, falls into the political realm where humans govern their affairs (here I am referencing Hannah Arendt’s work The Human Condition, particularly her distinction between labor, work, and action).  It is distinctly a political form of action.  Technology, on the other hand, is a product of work.  Technological works can be unmade, at least in some sense.

Is technological leadership a leadership that is informed by technology and technological innovation?  Or is it the leadership of technological trends and development.  As in all ‘chicken-or-the-egg’ questions, it is probably both.  I find a distinct lack of the latter, however.  In a world where ebooks may come to dominate education and working from home is increasingly common, we may be laying the technological framework for the removal of distinction between private and public realms.  Theoretically, one could live one’s entire life in a house and be educated, work, and die without leaving a digital world.  Though I’ve no doubt people will dispute the reality of such a claim, the fact is that it is becoming a possibility, just as the creation of the nuclear bomb created the possibility of humanity’s death as a species.

I would like to think that technological leadership involves knowing when restraint should be shown in technological advancement.  I might be wrong.  I feel about technological development roughly the same way I feel about the harvesting of natural resources: if they are there, they will be collected.  Where there is coal, it will be mined, where there is oil, it shall be drilled, and where there are trees, they will be cut down; all for progress.  The wheels of capitalism and technological innovation cannot be stopped.  Perhaps we should take them to their conclusions, rather than trying to stop them.

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