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Policymakers, Don’t Take Your Clues from “Techno-pocalypse” Movies

Movies capture the popular imagination, mirroring society’s hopes and fears. But science fiction is exactly what the name describes: fiction. It is meant to bring enjoyment to the viewer, and these wild depictures of technology run amok should not affect policy decisions. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

For example, take concerns about Artificial Intelligence (AI). Recently, a number of prominent scientists and well-known luminaries have warned that in the not-so-distant future, humans could lose control of AI, thus creating an existential threat for humanity. This paranoia about evil machines has swirled around popular culture for more than 200 years, and these claims continue to grip the popular imagination. In fact, one 2015 study found 22 percent of U.S. adults are afraid of AI (which is more than fear death), despite no evidence that this technology is anywhere near being as sophisticated as it is portrayed in movies.

But policymakers should not use science fiction films to guide their understanding of science and technology. For example, at a 2013 Senate hearing about threats from space, a senator cited the movie Armageddon—where a team of astronauts try to

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Evgeny Morozov

Evgeny Morozov is Not Impressed

In To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism Evgeny Morozov rails against two ideologies he labels “Internet-centrisim” and “solutionism” which he defines, respectively, as the belief that the Internet should be used to explain the world and the belief that the world needs fixing. His opposition to Internet-centrism makes him a critic of not only technology advocates like Jeff Jarvis but also detractors like Nicholas Carr. His opposition to solutionism makes him a critic of everyone else.

In particular, Morozov’s directs his disgust at those who he thinks combine these two ideologies to blindly use the Internet as a model for solving societal problems. This makes popular books like Wikinomics, What Would Google Do? and Here Comes Everybody primary targets. To use an analogy, if the Internet is a hammer, he thinks people are obsessively debating which issue should be the next nail, rather than asking the more important questions of “should we be using this hammer?” and “why are we even hammering?”

To be sure, hype over technology can be taken too far: the Internet will not single-handedly cure cancer, eliminate poverty, and end

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