Summary

This is a brief, overarching summary of the Jester’s views, for people who don’t have time to read the whole blog. Because this is a summary, the Jester disavows all responsibility for your misinterpretations of the material!

(1)    Why won’t information and communication technologies (ICTs) save the world? The Jester says: Because technology is not additive, but multiplicative. Technology multiplies human intent and capacity; it doesn’t add to it. Tough problems in the world are generally caused by non-positive human intent, or near-zero human capacity. Multiply by technology, and you don’t see gains.

(2)    Why do sane people keep thinking that ICTs will save the world? The Jester says: There are many reasons, but chief among them is inaccurate causal attribution resulting from not understanding Point (1) above. People who believe that ICTs will save the world come in two categories: (a) They are wealthy, educated, self-confident, well-intentioned people with bank accounts, affordable transport, good social networks, and a host of other significant advantages that impoverished people often don’t have; or (b) they have been brainwashed by such people. It’s those advantages that keep people of Class (a) out of poverty in the first place, but because they are swimming in an ocean of advantages, they attribute dramatic changes in their ability to find a good job to minor proximate causes – such as Monster.com – not to these other far more important factors. In the old days before the Internet and the mobile phone, rich, educated people got the good jobs, and poor, uneducated people didn’t, just like today. So, why do people keep thinking it’s the Internet that gets them good jobs? Misattribution of cause.

(3)    What do you do, if you’re a technologist who still wants to do some good? The Jester says: First, teach or mentor. Your greatest asset relative to a very poor person is not your technical expertise; it’s your overall education and general understanding of the modern world. Impart that through education, training, capacity building, etc. Basic literacy, basic education, basic self-confidence, basic grasp of human rights, and basic ability to organize people… those capacities are far more important to them, than a new gadget or, even, minor computer literacy skills. If you give them a fish, they’ll eat for a day. If you teach them how to fish, they’ll eat for a lifetime. No one said anything about giving them an automated fishing pole!!! See Point (1), above.

Of course, the Jester realizes that many technologists need to prove their brilliance and ingenuity by building fancy gadgets, and they want to do some good, too. If you are in this category, the best thing you can do is to put your ability to work for a well-intentioned, competent organization that is already doing good development. That way, you could magnify their impact. See, again, Point (1), above. Do not make the mistake of believing that technology fixes human problems, and that it will scale a solution. Technology requires a substrate of well-intentioned, human competence to work. See, yet again, Point (1).


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