Santa Claus, Plato and the Terminator

How can Santa deliver so many Christmas presents in such a short time? A question every child has asked, perhaps the first step in doubting Santa Claus’ existence. Can new technology be the answer to Santa’s secret? Perhaps he uses drones or 3d-printers? Or does Santa Claus tap into the sharing economy, using low-wage workers on temporary contracts do the heavy lifting for him? Or maybe it is crowd-sourcing, as in the neighborhood wino dressing up in a red costume and a beard? While the latter maybe a tradition of sorts, did the other options arrive to help Santa? Or are they part of a bigger pattern?

In other words: Is technology a force unto itself? Or is it the result of human effort? If the latter sounds more reasonable, consider how the discussion on digital topics gravitates toward inevitabilities such as “you can’t stop new technology”. (Tech-philosopher Kevin Kelly’s new book is congenially titled The Inevitable) If the technology evolution is pre-determined, the role of the inventor is merely to discover what is meant to come. It’s an argument that dates back more than two thousand years. Plato regarded the physical world as a shadow of its universal form (or rather, he put such words in Socrates’ mouth in his dialogues).

The physical chair I sit on as I write this, is only a shadow of the ideal chair that exists in the abstract. The internet, then, that I use to send this message to you, dear reader, is only a bleak copy of the ideal digital communication network. I would agree that there is some “room for improvement” on the internet, but the rest? Aristotle disagreed with Plato on the theory of universals, rather he saw the physical world as the first and abstraction as a consequence of human understanding of the world. Not sure my philosophy professor would agree, but perhaps Aristotle would see the internet as work in progress, something that we humans can (and should) improve on.

Netopia is with Aristotle on this issue, not least because it gives us more options and freedom to take action. If all we can do is to create imperfect versions of the ideal abstracts, we might as well yield to the higher powers of technology. Instead, Netopia thinks we should debate how we can improve technology and put it to better use for human kind. Whether it is improving Santa’s gift delivery system or making online markets a better place for SME:s. Humans have the power to influence the destiny. Or to quote a more recent philosopher, The Terminator: No fate but what we make.

Netopia wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! See you in 2017.

This is Netopia’s newsletter in December 2016