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The Future is (not) a Problem [w. Niall Docherty]

Article written with Niall Docherty as part of the Network Diagnostics research project on the subject of the future visions of Big Tech, published on Furtherfield. Extract below, and you can read the full text here.

Techno-fixes are big business. Taking a quick look over the Financial Times’ list of the world's largest companies, it might not surprise us that five of the top spots are occupied by corporations dealing in Information Technology. The looseness of this term connotes the production and dissemination of hardware, software and data, yet increasingly such companies are moving beyond this operational remit and have begun selling a vision of how life in its totality could—and should—be lived. Over the last decade, these so-called ‘Big Tech’ companies—Apple, Alphabet (Google's parent company), Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook—have sought to fashion bespoke technological ‘fixes’ to particular global crises, with the aim being no less than shaping the future of humanity itself. Facebook's Aquila solar drone project, for instance, will help four billion people in disparate regions of the globe ‘access all the opportunities of the internet’. Meanwhile, Alphabet's experimental X subsidiary is developing Project Loon, a competing network infrastructure powered by a fleet of solar balloons. Which connected future do we want: one with networks of balloons or drones? Or, more to the point: one filtered through the prism of Google's or Facebook's algorithms?