June 23, 2024

How technology moves society - not politics: Lasse Birk Olesen at TEDxCopenhagen 2012

Published May 26, 2023, 5:20 p.m. by Bethany

In a world that is increasingly driven by technology, it is easy to forget that politics still play a significant role in shaping society. However, as lasse birk olesen points out in his ted Talk, technology does not move society, politics does.

Birk olesen argues that technology does not create social change, but merely facilitates it. He gives the example of the printing press, which did not cause the Renaissance, but merely made it possible for new ideas to spread more quickly.

The same is true of the internet, which has not caused the Arab Spring, but has made it possible for people to communicate and organize more easily.

Birk olesen goes on to argue that politics, not technology, is what really moves society. He gives the example of the civil rights movement, which was not caused by new technology, but by political action.

In conclusion, Birk olesen argues that it is important to remember that politics, not technology, is what really shapes society. technology may facilitate social change, but it is politics that ultimately determines what direction that change will take.

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I have a question for you do you really

feel that your voice it's important to

how society develops that your vote

really makes a difference in politics

maybe not I certainly don't in fact I

think our time is better spent on

technological innovation than political

agitation and I'm here today to tell you

about three movements within technology

that you can be part of that can

radically change the world in the next

five years more so than any president of

any country can but first let's see how

this has happened before for a hundred

years scientists tried to stop

overpopulation by getting politicians to

make new laws then in the 1960s the

population growth rate turned around

it's some politician finally forbid us

to make more babies

no but the pill became widely available

in the Western world had these

scientists stopped lobbying government

and spent more time developing the pill

they could have stopped worrying much

earlier so the left here are the people

we usually think of as being very

important but democracy produces the

kind of leaders that the majority wants

so even the person on top does not dare

implement a policy that most people do

not support

after all this is what democracy is all

about on the right side of this slide we

have individuals who truly truly made

that global impact using technology for

instance Steve Jobs made smartphones

popular and many credit smart phones for

playing an important role in the Arabian

Spring these guys needed no majority

consent to do crazy world-changing stuff

so now I'll tell you about three new

technologies with huge political impact

for the first one let me ask you when

was the last time we saw a major

innovation in political systems I think

it was with the invention of the modern

democracy with the founding of the

United States this is 300 years ago

imagine if you drove a car from 300

years ago then you would be driving a

horse innovation in any field requires

experimentation so if we want to find

better political systems we need space

to experiment in all land this taken by

existing countries but 70% of the

surface of the earth is water

seasteading is the technology that will

allow us to move civilization on to the

ocean people are already living weeks on

end on cruise ships with this technology

we can build a hundred new countries at

sea in this room there are probably

already 600 ideas for how to run a


someone wants to try a corporate model

where shareholders tried to maximize

profits and other ones to try a direct

democracy with all decisions taken in

online polls the key is those countries

that do best will attract more citizens

and grow serving as inspiration for the

rest of the world and this is not just a

crazy idea it's about to happen

so this ship is being rented out to

entrepreneurs who wants to do business

and live in international waters so

imagine if all the money going into

lobbyism and political campaigns in the

last 10 years had been spent instead on

creating new countries at sea we might

have discovered democracy 2.0 or

something even better so that was my

first technology for the second meet

Pradeep from India who makes a living by

selling flutes in the street he has no

papers because registering a business

would cost him half a year of income but

he sets up shop anyway because that's

what he has to do to feed his family

in fact this is how half of the entire

population of the world makes a living

without papers or legal permits but

without a bank account credit must do

all his traits meeting his customers

face-to-face and trade in cash and this

is not enough to pay for schooling of

his children

but what if cash could be sent over the


what if Pradeep could sell his flutes

not just locally but globally

bitcoin is an open-source cash currency

for the internet bitcoin is

decentralized so unlike with bank

accounts there are no requirements for

you to get a Bitcoin account and sending

and receiving bitcoins worldwide has

practically no fees whatsoever unlike

with PayPal or Western Union where you

where especially small payments can get

very expensive making them unsuitable

for developing markets bitcoin is its

own currency so it's being traded at

exchanges where one Bitcoin rad now

costs eleven dollars and this map shows

just a small share of Bitcoin users in

this network

Pradeep can now sell his flutes to a

global market all he needs to do is go

to an internet cafe open a Bitcoin

account and accept payments this will

allow him to pay for schooling of his

children and if he had been required to

set up a bank account and register a

business he would never have come that

far so imagine the progress Bitcoin can

bring to the developing world as

everyone gets the opportunity to sell

globally brought to them by innovation

instead of agitation so that was my

second technology and I'll tell you

about the third one now this is Emma

emma is born with a rare disease that

means as she grows she continuously

needs new prosthetics to use her arms

normally this would be way too expensive

for her family but with 3d printing

printing physical objects instead of

just letters on paper

Emma can have new sizes printed

cheaply as she grows and this happy is

happening right now recently I made the

news because he had printed part of a

gun as 3d printers become cheaper and

cheaper soon everyone will be able to

download a file and prints a gun in

their own home on the other hand

printing meat for human consumption

using cells instead of printing with ink

or plastic have also had investments

this will do immensely more for Animal

Liberation than animal rights groups

ever have and moving production right

into people's homes will be an

incredible democratization of production

that not even Karl Marx could have

dreamed of he likes that

but interestingly it'll be the result of

everything he fought against companies

and individuals acting in their own

self-interest with strong profit motives

not through revolutionary politics but

innovation instead of agitation so these

were my three favorite technologies but

there are many others and I'll leave you

with this well-known saying politics is

the art of the possible on the other

hand technology can be defined as the

tools and knowledge that makes the

impossible become possible and sometimes

I just can't sleep because I can't wait

to be living on a sea stead paying my

rents in bitcoins and having a 3d

printed steak for dinner I don't know

your dreams but I urge you to consider

that whether it will be politics or

technology that will get you there and

make your vision come true Thanks




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