Technology and Human Rights (a little politics)

The best way to characterize human rights is to identify the outcomes that we are trying to ensure. These include critical freedoms like freedom of speech and freedom to access and distribute information — and those are not necessarily bound to any particular technology at any particular time. Vinton Cerf rightly states that, ” technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself.” I believe that the same applies to libraries. Libraries support rights through attemps to create equitable (sometimes) access to technology, digital or otherwise. Further down the line, Cerf drives home his thesis–creators of technology need to support human rights. 

So, a tip from a man who helped draft the UN Declaration of Human Rights:

Those in positions of political responsibility, economic power and intellectual authority, in fact our whole society, must not give up or be overwhelmed by the current dictatorship of the financial markets, which is a sure threat to peace and democracy. –Stephane Hessel, Time for Outrage! p. 23

As librarians, we sit at an important intersection of communication, access to knowledge, education, technology, and the market. The question is, are we critically examining our relationship to financial markets? I’m not going to lead a total call against them, or “capitalism,” but time is well overdue to look at how even  the most well-intentioned actors and collaborators with profit motives affect our daily practices.


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