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16 January 2018

Digital Technopeople: What They are and What They could Become

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The development and expansion of the ICT (information and communication technologies) technological system has not only transformed many areas of human, social, economic and political life, but is also generating a new type of person: technopeople. We must speak of them in the plural, not in the singular. Nowadays any network user generates several technopeople.

The technopeople and “multiple personality” era

Technopeople are identified by user IDs, passwords, IBAN and other numbers that are associated to Internet services / Image: William Iven on Unsplash

As a first approximation, technopeople can be defined as those individuals or legal entities whose identities, relationships, capacities and performances are (strictly) mediated by the ICT technological system. They are usually identifiable by various unique numbers (URLs, user names in Internet access services, social networks or bank networks, passwords, email addresses, mobile phone numbers, addresses in social networks, bank account IBANs, credit card numbers, etc.) These identifications are assigned by the various service providers (connection, access, visibility, etc.) in the digital world. Thanks to the technological platforms that cloud computing lords build and maintain, technopeople relate to each other and carry out various types of actions.

Techno-actions and hetero-awareness

As a second approximation, technopeople can be characterized by the set of actions that they carry out; but with it being clear that most of these actions are performed by computers that operate with data, not by physical network users. In other words: a technoperson is not reduced to what it does, but also includes the actions that others do with the results of their techno-actions, for example with their data. A particularly important feature of technopeople: they are not aware of themselves, or at most have a minimal awareness of what they do. Instead of people’s traditional self-awareness, in the digital world one has to consider the problem of hetero-awareness. Zombie computers are a good example of this.

It is possible to go deeper into the notion of the technoperson, but the above may suffice for a first approximation to the problem. There’s no doubt that we’re facing a disruptive innovation, whose consequences for humans are very difficult to predict. In particular, people who die biologically can still be technopeople, as their existence and actions in the digital world may have been automated. The same can be said of the reconstruction of past events. Conclusion: the recent emergence of technopeople transforms the notion of time, including the past, not just the future. Technopeople have technopasts and technofutures. Also in the plural.

Javier Echeverría

Researcher Ikerbasque. University of the Basque Country

Bibliographical references:

  1. Echeverría (2013), Innovation and Values. A European Perspective. Reno, NV: UNR/CBS.
  2. Echeverría (2017), El Arte de Innovar. Naturalezas, Lenguajes, Sociedades. Madrid: Plaza y Valdés.

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