The Age of Atomization

Flynn Coleman is a writer, an international human rights lawyer, and a fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government & The Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. She is also a Visiting Fellow at Yale University, with an appointment at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. She is the author of A Human Algorithm. Max Gruber / Better Images of AI / Clickworker 3d-printed / CC-BY 4.0 In large parts of the world, the project of the 20th century was to build mass society. Mass production; mass industrialization. Along the way, we invented the atomic bomb, waged world wars, opened public libraries and parks, and launched a quasi-global world order –– one filled with fast-moving transportation, telecommunications, and geopolitics. Mid-century begat the Information Age, the digitization of knowledge, attention economies, and machines that can “think.”  Humans have, to date, exhibited a remarkable capacity to adapt to technological disruption. We have come to grant prodigious amounts of trust to machines, to do things like operate markets, count money and votes, and fly us safely around the world (and into space). While modernization is not without its costs, such as environmental pollution and the amplification of many inequities, as we have gradually integrated our inventions, we have, for the most part also managed, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to collectively bend the moral arc of technology’s role in society toward justice. However, today’s emerging technologies, whose creators pledged to unify us via the small mobile devices in our hands,…The Age of Atomization