This book has been a team project from the outset. It emerged from conversations between myself and Luke van der Laan over an extended period of time. Following an invitation to join the Professional Studies team at the University of Southern Queensland, it seemed a natural step to draw together the threads of a project I’d commenced back in 2017. That was when I’d started looking more closely at what appeared to be increasingly problematic features of what was loosely called ‘the IT revolution.’ Far from helping to create a world of democratic enlightenment and human flourishing it appeared to be heading elsewhere. All the way, in fact, toward the kind of high-tech Dystopia foreshadowed, and repeatedly warned against, in hard science fiction, futures studies and a few other relevant fields. This, however, could neither be dismissed as fiction nor mere ‘speculation’. It is occurring before our eyes right here, right now, with dramatic real-world consequences. Despite the emergence of many superficially compelling new devices and options, IT systems appear bereft of the idealism shown by the early pioneers. Now they appear set on undermining democracy, eliminating privacy and destroying human autonomy on a global scale.
To embrace the concerns of this more critical perspective a decision was made within the Professional Studies program to support the project and produce this book. Sincere thanks are therefore due to Luke for undertaking the hard work involved in bringing it to life. Working closely with him at every stage has been a genuine pleasure. Further thanks are due to the incredibly positive response and hard work of Nikki Andersen (copy editing and production), Sophia Imran (copy editing), Samara Hoffmann (graphics) and Tara Mann (graphics). Tara took up an early idea for the cover and produced a stunningly simple but very effective design that contrasts deep time with current technology. It is sure to provoke reflection and raise questions – as intended at the outset. I also want to thank Adrian Stagg, Tahnee Pearse and Alex Charchar for the institutional support they provided. Finally, I’m indebted to my wife, Laurie, who has patiently put up with far too many details of this and related projects, let alone my all-too-frequent rants and ruminations about IT and world issues.
I hope that readers coming fresh to this material will gain a new appreciation for two suggestions contained herein. One, that the current uses and abuses of IT systems fall far short in human and cultural terms of what we have every right to expect. Second, to realise that help is indeed on the way. The seeds of constructive change are emerging in many places. To begin the process of ‘deleting dystopia’ they only need to be nourished and applied.
Richard A. Slaughter