THE DAN­GER WITH TECH

Mizzima Business Weekly - - EDITORIAL -

As our Mizzima Weekly cover story, Tech Hub Growth, Myan­mar has a lively tech­nol­ogy and soft­ware de­vel­op­ment com­mu­nity fo­cused on putting the “Made in Myan­mar’ stamp on tech­nol­ogy prod­ucts and ser­vices in the coun­try.

Some of these ventures be­gan on lap­tops in a per­son’s bed­room or in a cof­fee shop, in some ways lit­tle dif­fer­ent from the birthing pains of Face­book, Mi­crosoft or Ap­ple that emerged from hum­ble be­gin­nings. In ad­di­tion, there is a grow­ing sup­port sys­tem for tech start-ups to en­cour­age tech de­vel­op­ment in Myan­mar. Much of what is be­ing rolled out will ar­guably im­prove the lives of peo­ple here. All good, as they say.

But there are rea­sons to be vig­i­lant. Most of the high-tech prod­ucts and ser­vices will come from abroad, pri­mar­ily from Amer­ica’s Sil­i­con Valley and China’s Shen­zhen. And its adop­tion will be sold to the pub­lic as a panacea for their busy lives and as “faster” “bet­ter” en­ter­tain­ment op­tions.

Iron­i­cally, be­cause Myan­mar is play­ing catch-up, it is lag­ging be­hind some of the tech de­vel­op­ments be­ing rolled out in more de­vel­oped coun­tries un­der the rubric of this “smart” tech­nol­ogy and the “In­ter­net of Things” and this might ac­tu­ally prove to be a good thing.

The Myan­mar pub­lic needs to be alert to what ex­perts say are the dan­gers posed by “smart” tech­nol­ogy be­cause by and large it is a Tro­jan Horse sold on the premise it will make life eas­ier, more ef­fi­cient and safer.

We do not have enough space in this edi­to­rial to ex­plain the dan­gers posed by the “sur­veil­lance cap­i­tal­ism” be­ing rolled out by tech giants Google and Face­book, the sur­veil­lance state ap­pa­ra­tus in­clud­ing fa­cial recog­ni­tion in­stalled in the “so­cial credit sys­tem” of Chi­nese cities and creep­ing into Western cities, nor the po­ten­tial dan­gers and health haz­ards posed by 5G tele­com sys­tems. Suf­fice to say, in-depth stud­ies by jour­nal­ists and sci­en­tists point to the se­ri­ous threats in terms of “con­trol” and “freedoms” and phys­i­cal and men­tal health.

As au­thor Shoshana Zuboff points out, none of these de­vel­op­ments are nec­es­sary for the pub­lic to go about their lives. On the con­trary, they are un­nec­es­sary. And, as the re­search points out, the threats they pose are fright­en­ing.

Myan­mar is late to the party – but that may give peo­ple here a chance to question whether they want their rights, freedoms, and even health threat­ened by these new “smart” tech­nolo­gies that are cur­rently be­ing ag­gres­sively rolled out in a num­ber of Western coun­tries.

While most peo­ple in the West are obliv­i­ous to the dan­gers and be­ing sold a false nar­ra­tive by gov­ern­ments and me­dia, there is push­back. Some cities are ban­ning 5G, for ex­am­ple. “Smart me­ters” are prov­ing danger­ous. Care­ful Google searches will re­veal the many stud­ies, sto­ries, videos and doc­u­men­taries that lay bare the po­ten­tial for a dystopian fu­ture.

All this is far re­moved from the sterling ef­forts of Myan­mar’s tech de­vel­op­ers whose work it can be ar­gued will ben­e­fit peo­ple in a num­ber of ar­eas. Lit­tle to worry about here.

But go­ing for­ward the chal­lenge will come from the tech giants who at­tempt to im­pose “smart” so­lu­tions and slip con­di­tions into the small text where the user hands over con­trol of their per­sonal data. And, as you prob­a­bly sur­mise, they are al­ready here.

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