How the Promised Utopia of Technology is Turning into a Perilous Dystopian Nightmare

What it was like during the Early Days of the Internet Boom when Utopia seemed Possible

There is a general consensus among economists and management experts that technology leads to increased productivity, elimination of redundant barriers between the parties in a commercial exchange, enhances innovation and invention, and above all, contributes to the betterment of society.

Indeed, right from the time of the First Industrial Revolution when there was much excitement over automation leading to gains and prosperity for all to the present Fourth Industrial Revolution where the Internet and the associated technologies are supposed to liberate humanity, accepted and received wisdom has always held that technology betters the human condition.

This was the euphoria that greeted many of us when we started our careers in the late 1990s when the Internet fuelled boom was underway wherein all of us felt that this medium would at last free us from the clutches of gatekeepers of information and hoarders of knowledge who for centuries guarded their intellectual fiefdom like medieval lords.

Moreover, for the first time, there was no need for any intermediaries when the buyers and the sellers interacted and hence, there was an air of excitement and anticipation as we greeted each technological advancement with gusto and felt that the long promised Utopia of freedom and liberation was at hand.

What we now have is a Tech Fuelled Dystopian Nightmare

However, in recent years and especially in the last year or so, even leading experts and management thinkers have begun to express their reservations over whether technology is indeed the great liberator as we had earlier thought.

Right from the proliferation of Fake News on Facebook and Twitter to the problem of WhatsApp forwards leading to lynching of people on the basis of unfounded and patently false rumours to the very recent trend of using Deep Fakes or videos in which the speakers are made to look very much like the originals and where their words and conversations sound plausible except that they are fake.

Indeed, given the extraordinary power of social media to sway popular opinion, there is a growing tribe of experts who are legitimately concerned about the overweening use of such media to swing elections and subvert democracy.

Moreover, with hacking and cybercrime becoming common, it is no longer the case that the internet and social media in particular is any different from the age old methods used to con people and swindle them of their money and possessions.

How did we get from Utopia to Dystopia?

So, how did the Promised Utopia of technology turn into a Perilous Dystopia? To start with, the age old questions of control and regulation as well as the plain human nature coupled with the spread of free market capitalism and the monopolistic tendencies of such capitalists are some of the reasons why technology has now become a Sword of Damocles.

Moreover, ease of access and the very democratizing nature of the internet meant that anyone anywhere and everyone everywhere could use technology anytime and every time which is like giving the power of control and means of exploitation to those who are least prepared or worse, least well intentioned in their ability to use such power responsibly.

Indeed, as economics got the better of the good side of human nature and monopolies began to spring up, the internet was no longer the medium that was envisaged earlier and instead, became a very stratified and dangerous place.

In addition, it should also be mentioned that the old powerbrokers and the purveyors of power who felt threatened by the rise of the internet began to reassert themselves and ensured that the medium is under their grip.

Indeed, even the governments that did not interfere in the early days of the internet boom began to increase their surveillance and control of the medium.

Need for a New Social Contract in the Fourth Industrial Revolution Underway

Thus, the confluence and convergence of the factors discussed above led to the present state where technology is now a dystopian threat rather than a utopian ideal. So, how do we restore technology to its rightful place as a liberating force and a force for good?

To start with, there must be a new social contract between the users and the controllers wherein the chaotic freedom of the former is matched against the responsible moderation of the latter.

This was the case during the time of the Fist Industrial Revolution as well wherein the initial shock and apprehension of the power of the new technologies led to a gradual acceptance of them and a new equilibrium achieved between the various stakeholders wherein each agreed to respect the other and not break the social contract that enabled their existence.

In other words, what we now need is a similar pact between the governments, the technologists, and the users where new forms of coexistence are actualized and where everyone respects the boundaries and limits that ensure overall good.

While this seems ideal, it is our contention that it has been done before and it can be done again.


Lastly, we are the generation who knew a world without the internet. However, that cannot be said of the present generations who knew only a world with technology.

This is more the reason why for their sake and the sake of the future generations, we arrive at a new compact that does not let technology spiral out of control.

Indeed, if technology is not to be allowed to run amok like Frankenstein, it is time now for the creators and purveyors to deal with it before it is too late.

To conclude, there is no reason for technology to become dystopian and on the other hand, the utopian euphoria must give way to a realistic appreciation of its potential.

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