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Earlier this month, the popular press took up the story of an MIT Professor who showed her students episodes of Charlie Brooker's dystopian series 'Black Mirror'. Professor Maes said, "Anyone who was involved in designing new services and new interfaces should really think carefully about what impact the technologies they develop will have on society and on people's lives."

The question of impact has never not been present when it comes to technological innovation. The Victorians worried about it. Heidegger wrote a famous and very obscure (to anyone not embedded in his curious use of language) criticism of technology and its 'threat' in 1954. Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, mounted a campaign of bombings between 1978 and 1995, killing three people and injuring many others, in an attempt to halt technology, claiming that the Industrial Revolution was a disaster.

Can we say that the dystopian fears emerging today are new? Or is it simply the case that some personality types, the obverse of the techno-optimists, are simply wired-up to be negative, pessimistic and eventually apocalyptic about change? And can we perhaps say that we may have two sets of competing absurdity with anti-progressive nihilists and traditionalists at one extreme and transhumanist dreamers and fantasists at the other, both expressing their psychological weaknesses as truths about the world?

We are in a complex situation. No purpose is served by over-simplifying it. What is true is that we are about to enter into a new cycle of major technological innovation across a broad front - distributed ledger (blockchain), artificial intelligence, robotics, a probable revival of space exploration, neuroscientific applications and more - just at the moment when the general population can express itself as never before in individual terms across massive platforms. Psychological orientation coalesces now into culture wars of brutal intensity.

The measured view is that a series like 'Black Mirror' and the dystopian worries of an anxious liberal intellectual class tell us more about that class's loss of meaning and power than about technology yet still contain reasonable warnings that technology can have unintended consequences. Those consequences can have material effects on the autonomy of individuals and the effective functioning of society. Professor Maes is as correct in drawing student attention to dark possibilities as a humanities Professor would be in encouraging his students to understand scientific method.

This is where the political class comes in. It is this class that is supposed to be the broker between competing desires, competing irrationalities and competition for power. What technologists want to do because they can do it has to be tested against probable outcomes for individuals and society. Corrective measures have to be put in place when harms emerge. The current dystopian panic is to be expected. It is overdone but the fears it expresses are legitimate ones and they need to be taken account of if technological solutions to problems are to be trusted.