While we might want to keep a critical distance from the concept of Moore’s law in debates on the future of technology and computing, it is clear we will continue to face radical and disruptive change as a result of technological change: disruptive change that takes all sectors of society by surprise (from the smart phone thief who posts ‘selfies’ that can be viewed by the owner on their iPad through to the politicians and security experts who confront the ‘curse’ of twitter in times of social unrest). What we call digital geopolitics confronts citizens, business, organized crime, politicians and activists with new opportunities – and new problems: the challenge is to work out what the potential ‘black swan’ events could be in societies that – by design or default – are digitizing all aspects of life. The messiness of digital life is compounded by the broader economic and political uncertainty of the times we live in, a time where geopolitical change is accelerating (the transition to a multipolar world of emerging economic superpowers outside of the West) and economic growth is – at least in Europe – decelerating (where there is uncertainty about the long term consequences of both financial crisis and broader geopolitical/economic transformations).
This report sets out to explore future social problems in a world of disruptive technological change and economic uncertainty. In particular, we are interested in thinking about what a ‘digital divide’ means in a world transformed by Moore’s Law. What will the digital lives of people ‘on the margins’ look like in the coming years? What type of smart device will even the poorest sections of society be using by 2020? How could young people, confronted with economic uncertainty and insecurity, use their everyday ‘tools’? As a way of opening up debate we imagine a future scenario about an event in 2020: a short story is a provocation to open up thinking about the future of technology and society. We suggest technical solutions to manage the young people of the future in Europe is unlikely to be effective; we might have to confront more profound social and economic questions about the future of society.