As we march merrily into the cyber-infused future, armed with our PDA’s, mobile phones and superpowerful laptops, increasingly aware of the next wave of biotech, nanotech and AI technology about to knock us off our feet and perhaps even transport us out of our bodies, it’s worth remembering what a small percentage of the world’s population the cyber-revolution is currently affecting in any direct way. Even in the US, there are huge urban and rural ghetto areas where computers are uncommon and street corner drug dealing is a far more common teenage occupation than computer hacking. And for the majority of people in third world countries, the technological revolution is mostly something one sees on TV or in American or European magazines.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. The information revolution has the potential to benefit every human on Earth, not just those fortunate enough to be born into certain classes or certain countries. Slowly but surely, the tech revolution is finding its way into every corner of the planet, even into the most unlikely and economically disadvantaged places. On the large scale, this diffusion process may be viewed as an inevitable consequence of the advance of technology and the overall trend of globalization. But in practice, in terms of nitty-gritty human reality, the expansion of technology beyond the world’s economic elite is by no means an automatic process. Rather, it is the result of huge amounts of hard work and careful planning by dedicated people in the growing middle classes of developing countries. Vastly more work will be required to finish the process of disseminating technology across class barriers, including more cooperation from those of us in developed nations. There are technical problems involved here, but there are also major purely human problems, with tremendously complex political and cultural dimensions.