The Stack Archive

Politics vs. Technology – Isolationist Fears?

Thu 29 May 2014

We have reached an end to a week that has seen a vast amount of change across Europe. The political landscape has changed with protectionist parties across Europe sweeping seats in the European Parliament.

As TheStack.com is a new website, over the past few months we’ve spent a while trying to define ourselves and a question that often hangs over niche websites such as this, is whether the social and political ramifications of the subject matter, in this case IT, should become a discussion point. It’s a tricky issue, as whichever stance you take, you run the risk of alienating people, and is one of the major reasons most B2B publications or websites tend to avoid these topics.

The European elections over the past week have had me thinking a huge amount about our subject matter. For a while cloud computing hasn’t been a matter of ‘if’ but a matter of ‘now’, and whether you’re looking at web applications or data centre storage, politics plays a massive part.

I started this job about six months ago and everyday I’m astounded by the news about technology that seems completely incredible and is changing our way of life – which somehow gets eclipsed by Kanye West getting married, or by ‘The 49 funniest things you’ve ever seen on London Underground’. (As a regular tube user I can attest that people bursting into song when you’re trying to read the latest Robert Harris novel is not funny)

This brings me back to the point I wanted to make about one of the biggest stories of our age. This is a story so huge I genuinely believe that in one hundred years school children will be studying this in history lessons. I am speaking of Sir Tim Berners-Lee calling for a Magna Carta or a Bill of Rights for the internet. (Personally I prefer the idea of a Magna Carta mostly because I’m worried what America will come up with when it comes to a second amendment)

This happened back in March and whilst you probably know about it, most people will look glazed when you mention it to them. Since then Microsoft lost a case with the US Supreme Court to hand over data stored on an Irish server. Last year Angela Merkel said the NSA has breached the human rights of German citizens after the PRISM scandal. A couple of weeks back a Spanish court ruled that an individual had the right to be forgotten even on Google. Every week there is something else that pops up that makes you think that something bigger needs to step in.

I’m a huge proponent of Sir Tim, and not just because his invention enabled me to keep my nephews happy watching Netflix whilst I’m playing Call of Duty, or enabled me to stalk ex-girlfriends on Facebook who 90% of the time, are doing far better for themselves now. I’m a fan because he obviously believes in something bigger. At a time of the Tea Party in the US, UKIP in the UK, a Neo Nazi German MP sitting in the European Parliament, he understands that it will be technology that will ultimately bring us together. The network that makes this possible is influenced by: politics, economics, religion and sociology. And yet if there were an international law to govern this, even if Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea etc. didn’t sign up we would still be one step closer to a more unified world.

A law has to exist internationally. The rights of children in Thailand or the Philippines to not be sexually exploited online, should be regarded as the same as the rights of children in the west. Data privacy laws cannot be anything but multi-national when you consider the power of the international institutions like Google.

This leads me to my final point. At a time when politics appears to be becoming more isolationist, technology is becoming more international. Globalisation is a reality and a huge part of this is due to technology. The things that bring us together, through the internet and cloud technologies, have become far greater than the things that keep us apart. If like me you have been mildly disillusioned over the last week, perhaps this thought will bring you some hope.


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