It should come as a surprise to no one that given the seemingly limitless reach of the internet, it can be used to influence politics and public perceptions in ways never before considered. Celebrities and politicians reach their constituencies quicker through social media, political apps are becoming election game-changers, and these technologies have given a voice to the people in the midst of full-blown political uprisings. The number and use of these apps and systems are as varied as the political opinions for which they’re used.
But as lawmakers and politicians try their best to keep up with rapidly-changing technology, they find themselves regularly bumping heads big business and long-held traditions that eschew all forms of regulation. The repercussions of these potential new laws are far and wide-reaching. Furthermore, quite a few people have already felt the effects.
Much like the technology itself, the uses of 3-D printer technology are vastly expanding with many unforeseen results. But even as our planet’s greatest minds use the technology to send tools into space, there also lurks the danger of what happens when the technology becomes used for weaponry. Such was the concern of the 3-D printing start-up MarkForged, which specializes in printing objects from materials such as carbon fiber. When an American political interest group, Defense Distributed, attempted to order a printer from MarkForged, the start-up turned the group down, fearing that the controversial group would use the printer to create a 3-D printed gun.
Although MarkForged has offered to refund Defense Distributed the full $8,000 price of the Mark One printer, the controversial group has put out a notice to buy one second-hand from anyone wish to part with their existing model. Yet 3-D printing policy analyst Michael Weinberg sees 3-D printed weaponry as an inevitability. “On any sort of scale, this is not particularly sensical,” Weinberg says. “For the printer companies, they don’t have the time or resources or inclination to figure out everything that’s coming out of their machines. That’s an impossible task.”
In For the Long Ride
Not all new technological uses are met with such controversy by international critics. In the Persian Gulf, where child labor is a touchy human rights issue, it’s been a long-held tradition that children be used as jockeys in camel races. Although all jockeys are officially required to be over 18 years old, under age jockeys with smaller bodies make for faster camels.
This began to change in 2005 when many smaller jockeys were replaced by DIY robots on the camels’ backs with GPS-enabled trackers. This has considerably cut down on the use of children, which numbered in the tens of thousands a decade ago.
Man and Machine
Technological innovation can only be stifled so much before it becomes commonplace. In the end, the use of technology is only as “moral” as the person using it. Still, it can’t be underestimated how wide and powerful the influence of emerging tech is on the world stage. As elected representatives make sweeping changes to exactly how the internet should be used, the power still lies with the people whose lives are affected by it.