Are Digital Technologies Making Politics Impossible? - RSA

Are Digital Technologies Making Politics Impossible?

Public talks


Durham Street Auditorium, RSA House

  • Arts and society
  • Digital
  • Technology

Is Aldous Huxley’s dystopian vision playing out in front of our eyes? Are we destined to be controlled not by the things we most fear, but by those we most desire?

‘The effect of the global attention economy—i.e., of our digital technologies doing precisely what they are designed to do—is to frustrate and even erode the human will at individual and collective levels, undermining the very assumptions of democracy.’James Williams

In May this year, James Williams, a former Google employee and doctoral candidate researching design ethics at Oxford University, won the inaugural US$100,000 Nine Dots Prize.

Established to crowdsource creative and innovative solutions to pressing modern problems, the competition welcomed over 700 anonymous applications from around the world - all addressing the question 'Are digital technologies making politics impossible?'

James’ winning piece argued that digital technologies privilege our impulses over our intentions, and are gradually diminishing our ability to engage with the issues we most care about. In this event – his first public event since winning the prize - he will cover:

  • How the ‘distractions’ produced by digital technologies are much more profound than minor ‘annoyances’
  • How so-called ‘persuasive’ design is undermining the human will and ‘militating against the possibility of all forms of self-determination’
  • How beginning to ‘assert and defend our freedom of attention’ is an urgent moral and political task

The Nine Dots Prize is supported by Cambridge University Press and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), both departments of the University of Cambridge.


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