Surviving the revolution. This is foremost in everyone's mind when talking about the issue of digital revolution. Like every revolution, the digital upheaval ushers in tremendous impact on society. Socio-politico and cultural changes have emerged and affected every fabric of the global community. Old practices and ideas have been discarded and new norms, some constructive and some are not, are being adapted at a mind-boggling rapid pace. The mantra of today is information high-technology. Either you jump in or you fizzle out.
The Social Basis of the Digital Revolution
The Digital Revolution is a direct result of the western industrial revolution of the 19th century. The invention of the steam engine revolutionized the productive capacity of society therefore giving way to a system of mass production and rapid technological advance. Everything has to be on a mass basis on a much faster and efficient way. Thus the subsistence economy and individual production system of old feudalism has been overthrown.
The onset of the Industrial Revolution also brought about a rapid concentration of wealth and the means of production on a few individuals who control the capital and the increasing dehumanization of the productive forces of society due solely to the single-minded motive of capital holders to increase profit. On the outset, this has progressive characteristics in that the leaders of industries constantly improves their technique and technology to gain an edge over their competitor. From a simple steam engine comes the fuel-powered turbines to nuclear fission technology. These changes rapidly revolutionized knowledge and the advance of superior than the superior technology can not now be stopped.
However, the increasing productive capacity of society and rapid advance of technology increases also the concentration of wealth on few capital holders who own and control this technology thus giving way to monopolies and super-monopolies who operate on a global scope, ending the era of nation-states. These monopolies in turn continue to perpetuate the virulent competition for superior technology so as to achieve greater, faster and efficient production thus giving them the edge, production-wise and technological-wise.
It is in this context that the Digital Revolution came about. There is a tremendous paradigmatic shift that occurs in today’s society with the advent of this revolution. Not only human practices have changed but also human relationships. The world shrank but expanded itself in-depth. As mentioned earlier, the all-consuming magic word now is information high technology.
The Computer is Born
The advent of computers changed everything. Man has invented an ènfant terriblè of tremendous computing power and logical reasoning with a near 100% accuracy. The approximation of the human brain is born and this brain doesn’t suffer from emotion. A simple processor can churn hundreds of thousands of data and create accurate outputs and store these data and outputs for easy retrieval for future use. A much larger processor can quadruple these operations, or much more. Connect these processors and the result would be a global outbreak of information which can not be easily imagined. The dawn of new civilization has come.
The Digital Revolution: A Revolution from the Top
Unlike other revolutions which was initiated by the mass of people seeking to change their way of life, the Digital Revolution was initiated by the industrial super-monopolies, those who occupy the upper stratum of the world’s social triangle. The underlying motive of the race for superior technology was to out-produce and out-technologize their competitors so that they can enjoy world hegemony through the monopoly of information and technology. Cutting-edge technology means cutting-edge leadership in product and capital thus achieving hegemony on the world body-socio-politik.
In the genesis of the digital revolution, nowhere can you find any mention of bettering the condition of the simple folk – the common man. Of course there are motherhood statements of improving humanity and advancing the human race, but the be-all and end-all of this revolution is to expand social production efficiently and rapidly so as to gain maximum profit. Is it not an irony that the advent of digital revolution also saw the alienation and outright destruction of the productive forces? Why is it that companies in the First World nations downsize their workforce thus driving millions of workers to pauperization? Because high technology and computerization entails the maintenance of a small workforce. A computer can do the work of ten or more working-man. A robotized production and assembly plant needs only a minimum of breathing human beings to operate the computer-controlled robots.
The boom of society is the bane of its inhabitants, especially the underprivileged. The resultant deepening social cleavage does not help the human race. A few are getting richer and wiser while many are getting destitute and impoverished. The social divide is getting bigger and wider.
This is not to say that high technology and computerization should not occur. This is only to point out and shatter the ideological assault of the super-monopolies on the less privileged sections of the global community. This is to demystify and deglorify the misconstrued notion that the global super-monopolies develop these technologies to advance the interest of the simple folk.
Surviving the Revolution: Digital Revolution for All
In concluding this essay, we may forward the key question which hounds us today: how do we survive the digital revolution? Computer high technology and digitalization opens for us new oppurtunities and horizons in democratizing information technology. The slogan of Digital Revolution for All must be the rallying cry of the global community.
New educational method can be developed so as to master the intricacies of the digital media and create an environment of creators and not just IT consumers. An all-encompassing cultural rejuvenation through the development of a consciousness geared towards man-friendly-I.T. should be addressed and we can use the current technology to speed this cultural reawakening.
We must remember that technology, and the digital technology in particular, is a neutral entity. It can do benefit or it can do harm depending on, as the saying goes, “who has the wheel”. It is therefore imperative for society to reconstruct the course of digital technology, one that is pro-people. Once this is done, we can definitely survive the revolution.