The Politics of Technology

70 Pages Posted: 16 May 2017

Date Written: February 1, 2017


We are in the midst of a new technological era initiated by new understandings of how the world works, particularly our knowledge of quantum physics and biology. This technological revolution stands on a par with two other great technological shifts in human history: the now two-century–old Industrial Revolution, and the ten-millennia–old Agrarian Revolution.

The technologies of this Quantum-Biological Era have begun overturning the established politics, culture, and values of the Industrial and Agrarian eras. As they do so, we face a double handicap in our quest to grasp, shape, and direct their force. Not only do we currently fail to understand the impact of these new technologies, but we never understood past technologies’ impact on politics, culture and human life. In addition, these new technologies are powerful in unprecedented ways: they give us the ability to manipulate the fundamental elements and forces composing life and the universe itself.

Woven into human history, from the first stone tools to the latest smart phone, technology has helped define all aspects of our culture. New technologies create their own culture and values, destroying much of what came before. At this point in the human story, established technology and the development of a new generation of technology are the dominant forces shaping politics and human existence.

Nonetheless, technology is overwhelmingly perceived as some sort of exogenous or apolitical force, systematically left out of political thinking, from the ways it creates and distributes wealth to the various ways it bestows power. It is generally thought, new technologies are simply “adopted,” while politics and culture continue more or less as before.

Industrial technology overturned established cultures, created massive economic dislocation, instigated world wars, and left a toxic and existentially threatening environmental legacy. The beginning decades of this new era of technological evolution reveal it will be no less revolutionary.

We need a politics of technology, an understanding of the role technology plays in defining our culture and our selves. This essay is an attempt to begin a fundamental revaluing of present culture and its systems to understand technology's defining role in order to develop a politics of technology and humanize technology’s evolution.

Keywords: Technology, Politics, Democracy, Quantum, Biological, Evolution, Industrial, Energy, Electricity, Google, Facebook, Newton, Einstein, Leakey, National, Global, Oil, Automobile, Solar

JEL Classification: O3, Q5, N1, L00, D8, D7, B1, B2

Suggested Citation

Costello, Joe, The Politics of Technology (February 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

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