Martin Luther King, Technology Critic

This year, protesters around the nation sought to #ReclaimMLK. In the process, they brought his ideas on technology, science, and the future to the fore.

King’s fullest, most eloquent critique of the shortcomings and byproducts of the march of technological advancement comes in the opening lines of his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize speech. Like so much of his oratory, it’s gripping and still plenty resonant:

“Modern man has brought this whole world to an awe-inspiring threshold of the future. He has reached new and astonishing peaks of scientific success. He has produced machines that think and instruments that peer into the unfathomable ranges of interstellar space. He has built gigantic bridges to span the seas and gargantuan buildings to kiss the skies. His airplanes and spaceships have dwarfed distance, placed time in chains, and carved highways through the stratosphere. This is a dazzling picture of modern man’s scientific and technological progress.”

“Yet, in spite of these spectacular strides in science and technology, and still unlimited ones to come, something basic is missing. There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.”

Those words were spoken four decades ago, but they could describe the present without much tinkering. Our artificial intelligence and medical science are more powerful than ever, our chief technologists richer than ever, yet the income gap between whites and African Americans is nearing record levels. And the incarceration gap is worse.

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Posted byarketyp