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The False Promises of the Digital Revolution

How Computers transform Education, Work, and International Development in Ways that are Ecologically Unsustainable

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C.A Bowers

The False Promises of the Digital Revolution examines what currently goes largely unnoticed because of the many important uses of digital technologies. While many people interpret digital technologies as accelerating the global rate of progress, C. A. Bowers focuses attention on how they reinforce the deep and ecologically problematic cultural assumptions of the West: the myth of progress, the substitution of data for different cultural traditions of wisdom, the connections between print and abstract thinking, the myth of individual autonomy, the conduit view of language that hides how words (metaphors) reproduce earlier misconceptions, and a Social Darwinian justification for colonizing other cultures that is now leading to armed resistance – which, in turn, strengthens the ties between corporations, the military, and the computer science industry. The book also investigates how to understand the cultural non-neutrality of digital technologies; how print and the emphasis on data undermine awareness of the tacit information pathways between cultural and natural ecologies; and how to identify educational reforms that will contribute to a more informed public about the uses of digital technologies.
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Chapter 1: Introduction

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Chapter 1

Introduction

The inherited patterns of thinking in the West, as well as those in cultures bent on adopting the Western model of modern development, make it difficult to recognize that the rate of environmental degradation signals a radical turning point in human history. If we take seriously the scientific reports on the rate and scale of environmental changes, the turning point may also represent the last stage of human history. Thus, the primary focus of this book will be on the myths, misconceptions, and silences inherited from the past that contribute to the modern obsession with the development and globalization of digital technologies. These technologies have been highly useful in documenting and modeling the changes in the Earth’s natural systems. Less noticed is how they contribute to an individually centered form of consciousness increasingly unable to grasp the short- and long-term consequences of changing the chemistry of the world’s oceans, the impact of global warming on habitats, species, and the scale of the life-altering toxic chemicals still being introduced into the environment––all in the name of progress. Also in the name of progress, this mode of consciousness makes a virtue of ignoring the forms of intergenerational knowledge and skills essential to the world’s diversity of cultural commons that enable people to live less consumer-driven lives. It also makes a virtue of being rootless; that is, not being long-term inhabitants of place.

As microchips now run nearly all machines,...

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