The future of technology in peacebuilding: Presentation at MIT Media Lab


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In early April this year, I was invited to deliver a keynote address at the inaugural Build Peace conference, held at MIT Media Lab. My presentation was given, almost to the day, twenty years after the Rwandan genocide. Just before I went on stage, we all observed a minute's silence to remember the victims.

The genocide wasn't on my mind when I made the slides for the presentation, but brought into sharp focus the thrust of my submission, which was to look ten to fifteen years into the future, and how information and communications technologies (ICTs) would feature in both the genesis and inflammation of complex political emergencies (CPEs) - in other words, violent conflict - as well as aid in peacebuilding and conflict transformation.

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The future of technology in peacebuilding: Presentation at MIT Media Lab

  1. 1. ICT4Peace future conflict and its transformation Sanjana Hattotuwa ! TED Fellow Special Advisor, ICT4Peace Foundation
  2. 2. my past accidental activist
  3. 3. see differently interrogating trauma through technology
  4. 4. the future never comes as we expect it
  5. 5. the present is what we choose to see
  6. 6. concepts frameworks for peaceful change
  7. 7. radical inclusion hearing everybody’s voice
  8. 8. Nimalaruban’s mother | Murder with impunity
  9. 9. The disappeared | Abducted, erased and voiceless 5,676+, second only to Iraq
  10. 10. IDPs | Without land or shelter Those who survive but aren’t counted,
  11. 11. inclusion of everyone, selection around a process, managing exclusion
  12. 12. algorithms The math of discrimination?
  13. 13. bespoke web what’s beyond & behind the tailoring?
  14. 14. Selection bias as the new objective how to critically question?
  15. 15. power and discrimination written into algorithms, rendered invisible, become the new norm
  16. 16. corporate bias conflated with corporate benevolence
  17. 17. implications of convenience over privacy
  18. 18. internet of things when your fridge knows more than mom
  19. 19. watch dogs: CTOS as the future of urban life?
  20. 20. when does intelligence turn into surveillance? how to maintain control over privacy within ecosystem of competing owners, location sensors, proxy indicators, sentient nodes, ambient observation, pervasive automation
  21. 21. who controls “smart” & “intelligent” things? • a new violence around graded eco-systems of services, with luxury being defined by access, in turn based on the digitisation of discrimination • IP conflict & governance - complexity requires giving up direct oversight & control. Have we imagined conflict resolution mechanisms for the Internet of Things? • cascading conflict from ubiquitous inter-connections
  22. 22. privatisation of information paying more basic rights
  23. 23. expedient profit over principles
  24. 24. corporations know more than governments
  25. 25. shareholders as primus inter pares
  26. 26. the negotiation of exclusion outside of franchise & democracy
  27. 27. tech innovation & conflict towards endogenous answers
  28. 28. Those who can innovate in the Global South, want to be the next Zuckerberg. Those who can innovate in the Global North, write themselves in as enduring saviours.
  29. 29. JFK with first cohort of Peace Corps, Aug. 1962. South to South Peace Tech Corps, 2015?
  30. 30. Incubators around ICTs for peace From surrogate projects to more organic development
  31. 31. future peace processes challenges & opportunities
  32. 32. How will radical transparency & pervasive technology impact closed door, high-level negotiations? What is the future of Chatham House Rule?
  33. 33. Vint Cerf flags how a DDoS attack can be mounted by fridges against the Bank of America in the future. Impact on a peace process with similar attack?
  34. 34. How can the Internet of Things (smart TVs and fridges) be used creatively in a peace process? Can we reach out to the ‘Other’ interactively using family recipes and bad reality shows?
  35. 35. How will millions of lifestreams, freely accessibly on the web, impact in real time negotiations around identity & resources? How will lifestreams from negotiations impact fragile societies?
  36. 36. big data on the granular digital smoke signals on key issues
  37. 37. big data for context beyond the event driven, underlying drivers of peace & violent conflict
  38. 38. justice & reconciliation what will it mean for for digital natives?
  39. 39. ict4peace for whom? focus & intent matters
  40. 40. dignity
  41. 41. ethics
  42. 42. our reach should exceed our grasp - or what’s peace building for? ! with apologies to Robert Browning
  43. 43. thank you
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