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Proceedings 2017, 1(3), 259;

Is Digitalization Dehumanization?—Dystopic Traits of Digitalization

SCCIIL Interdisciplinary Center, Department of Applied IT, University of Gothenburg, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden
Presented at the IS4SI 2017 Summit DIGITALISATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY, Gothenburg, Sweden, 12–16 June 2017.
Published: 26 May 2017
(This article belongs to the Proceedings of the IS4SI 2017 Summit DIGITALISATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY)
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Most phenomena in the world have both positive and negative aspects (pluses and minuses). This is also true of digitalization. However, lately a lot more emphasis has been placed on the positive potentials of digitalization than on its negative potentials and already occurring negative effects. Digitalization is supposed to bring increased efficiency leading to greater speed and lower costs. The question is: greater speed and lower costs for whom? Who is actually profiting from digitalization in a narrow and broader sense? In this paper, I will discuss the idea that perfectly well functioning social practices, like human face-to-face communication, shopping, banking, medical care, education, administration, policing, travel, taxi, hotels, old age care (using robots), car driving, military attack (using drones), security, privacy etc. have already been or should be ”disrupted” (a recent positive buzz word) and exchanged for digital services, supposedly bringing greater efficiency and sometimes a “shared economy” through increased speed and lower costs. Below, we will note a number of such examples, coming, for example, from shopping, where customers are asked to register what they buy themselves and then pay with a plastic card, in this way recording their purchase for the benefit of the shop owners, credit card company and bank, or from academic education, where knowledgeable persons lecturing can be exchanged for a digital learning environment, where students learn on their own. We will pose the question: “When is digitalization warranted and when not?” When is it better to trust established human practices than to disrupt and substitute them with digital replacements? When should we not fix what is not broken? How can we digitalize with care, avoiding disruption of some of the best practices evolved by mankind?
Keywords: digitalization; dehumanization; dystopia digitalization; dehumanization; dystopia
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Allwood, J. Is Digitalization Dehumanization?—Dystopic Traits of Digitalization. Proceedings 2017, 1, 259.

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