Held in partnership with the Aspen Institute España, the Socrates Seminar will take place from October 7th-9th, 2022. Socrates international seminars include three seminar sessions over two days.
If you are interested in attending this seminar, please email [email protected].
Information Wanted to Be Free: Liberalism’s Tech Reckoning
In the 1980s and 90s, many people thought that our technologies had finally put utopia within reach: across the civil, private, and public sectors, we celebrated new freedoms that cutting-edge thinkers and developers in Silicon Valley and elsewhere were bringing us. Perhaps coincidentally, the turn from one decade to the next also witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disruption of the collectivist societies that it sheltered. Western liberalism, which famously valued individual freedom, reason, markets, and the rule of law, appeared not just to have won the Cold War but to have brought us, as Francis Fukuyama put it in 1992, to “the end of history.”
Thirty years later, we have had ample reason to reconsider. It isn’t just the tech bubble of 2000 or the Great Recession of 2007 and years following the coronavirus pandemic or the impact of ever-more-evident climate change. It isn’t even wars in the former Yugoslavia or Syria or Iraq and Afghanistan; most immediately, it isn’t Putin’s Russia rejecting in Ukraine everything from Plato to NATO. The collected voices in “Information Wanted to Be Free: Liberalism’s Tech Reckoning,” argue that the technologies liberal thinking nurtured have indeed perfected a simulacrum of the ideal; in so doing, however, they have fed both chaos and the authoritarianism that might control it.
“Information Wanted to Be Free” starts with a module on moments in the halcyon days of Silicon Valley, traces the appropriation of that founding spirit and the technologies it enabled and looks at its underlying, contrarian philosophical assumptions. The second module explores the nexus of challenges that have followed from those developments across sectors for multiple stakeholders. In a third module, finally, we consider efforts by the EU and other entities to reimagine our tech-enabled social structures. Here, too, liberal thinking has a role to play, if we know how best to manage its application and redeem what we plausibly saw in it at the outset.
Moderated by Leigh Hafrey, Senior Lecturer in Behavioral and Policy Sciences at the MIT Sloan School of Management.