Re-imagining The Enlightenment for the Digital Age

The following is a guest post by Rubi Kaur


They say in order to look forward, you must first look back, back into history. As Steve Jobs once said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future” 


So can we re-imagine those pivotal moments in our collective history, re-invent them  to help form a radical new human future in the digital age? 


The Enlightenment Age of the 18th Century brought about one of those fundamental moments in our history. This was the great awakening, where humanity and society advanced through the central themes of reason and rationality, paving the way for innovation and transformation to flourish. Philosophers, artists, scientists and  mathematicians gathered in the great salons, where intellectual debate led by women collectively entwined thought, creativity with purpose and human value.  Together they  opened portals on a time continuum of discovery, when humanity fundamentally began to lay down rights, question, and understand what it means to be human and our impact on society.


Fast forward to the present day, to our tech  data-driven digital 21st century society – how far have we progressed and enriched the key themes of the enlightenment in our modern, digital lives?


Are we now living in the age of digital enlightenment?


The tech era  has revolutionized  every aspect of our human lives.  Our digital destinies are inevitable; tethering us to automated AI systems, communication devices and the internet. Drowning us with information, extracting our data. The online world,  borne of no class distinction, no class borders  and therefore equally, must have no social borders either, yet falling into the chasm of the digital divide remains a reality for many.  Our rights to digital privacy, identity and personal data are sometimes compromised as we  struggle to find truth, reality and a safe haven amongst digital disinformation, fake news, trolls, online harm and echo-chambers the digital world renders before us. 


Perhaps we need a new era for Digital enlightenment and  responsible technology?  Guided not by the tech creators alone, but together with the social scientists, the psychologists, the artists, the scientists  and the philosophers. A place for science, arts and the humanities to meet, learn, grow and evolve together, evoking the spirit of the enlightenment salons, celebrating diversity of thought and opinion whilst upholding an era of new principles in the digital age : inclusion, ethics, freedom, purpose and human compassion. 


Rubi Kaur is a senior solutions architect and chair of the Vodafone Women in Technology network. She regularly appears on the computer weekly UK list of the Most Influential women in IT and writes articles on the impact of Tech on society.

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