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Homo Collaborans & Techno-Capitalism


It would be an oversimplification to assert that the digital transformation has been caused by techno-capitalism alone. Such an oversimplification would result in the misidentification of the solution. Instead, a more sophisticated perspective should be adopted in order to understand the contributing causes to the rapid-paced technological developments. Such a perspective should take into account all of the organizational, social, political as well as economical factors. In a similar vein, merely attributing everything to the aspects of the political economy of capitalism such as net neutrality or intellectual property would lead to a dismissal of the smaller narratives for research and innovation. A balanced view that would consider all of these aspects together might help us deal with today’s digital issues more in the long run. An amalgamation of different knowledge fields regarding human life along with digital technologies could exemplify how 21st-century science would play a crucial role in the education and development of future generations.

Needless to say, without changing our lenses to look at today’s technological issues would make them only grow bigger and bigger. To give a specific example, the ‘zeitgeist’ of today’s trend of being free for the user- which is a misnomer for big data business- led to some profound consequences for informational capitalism as it resulted in the development of gigantic technological enterprises. As a result, questions on ethical design of networks or net neutrality leave merely space for the collaboration of individuals who are powerless given the size of these companies and lack of related regulations or laws.

Given the fast-paced lives of the modern human beings and all of these continuous digital flows of information among individuals, it becomes harder to answer the question of what it means a human being in this hyperconnected age. Perhaps, rather than seeking definite answers we should choose dual pairs of responses in contrast to dichotomies. To give a specific example, while the self is approached as being free within the realm of politics, it becomes an object of inquiry when it comes to science due to being seen as something which can be analyzed for the purpose of prediction. Such questions can further be traced back to more philosophical debates of the meaning of the consciousness and mind. All of these debates require to take into account not only the individual self, but also the environment surrounding the self (aka the bigger picture).

Along with the proliferation of digital technologies into our daily lives, it should not be surprising at all that new power relationships emerge. Collective intelligence rather than individual intelligence is in place within a networked environment given the widespread use of these technologies. This also affects the ontological ground of individual relationships as the network is defined by the collectivity of these relationships among the individual entities rather than the individual knowing agent. In a similar vein, instead of the self-interested person, collective responsibility becomes the focus in a connected world as the boundaries between the social, digital or physical can hardly be drawn.

Within the light of these changes, perhaps, we should prefer the term homo collaborans rather than talking homo sapiens. We are in a constant act of participating in collective intelligence that bears upon a mutual collective responsibility as well.

It might sound like another oversimplification to categorize human-beings in terms of one single aspect, namely collaboration, as they tend to possess multiple elements within their nature ranging from tool-making to economic participation. Although it might appear as a struggle to define human beings terms of a specific category, the use of digital technologies within our age contributed further to the challenge of techno-capitalism which defines most of today’s modern societies.

As the impact of techno-capitalism cannot be denied, we can perhaps try to understand it within the bigger picture of today’s innovation landscape in order to shape the future better. Techno-capitalism is not only influenced by information technologies, but other factors ranging from bio-tech to gen-tech shaping today’s social environment. To shape the human ontology we need to take into account the interrelatedness and interactions among all of these existing forces. This would leave us with many unanswered questions along with unimaginable opportunities; yet it would also mean that our technology does not equal our destiny.

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Ayse Kok
Ayse completed her masters and doctorate degrees at both University of Oxford (UK) and University of Cambridge (UK). She participated in various projects in partnership with international organizations such as UN, NATO, and the EU. She also served as an adjunct faculty member at Bogazici University in her home town Turkey. Furthermore, she is the editor of several international journals, including IEEE Internet of Things Journal, Journal of Network & Computer Applications (Elsevier), Journal of Information Hiding and Multimedia Signal Processing...etc. She has also played the role of the guest editor of several international journals of IEEE, Springer, Wiley and Elsevier Science. She attended various international conferences as a speaker and published over 100 articles in both peer-reviewed journals and academic books. Moreover, she is one of the organizing chairs of several international conferences and member of technical committees of several international conferences. In addition, she is an active reviewer of many international journals as well as research foundations of Switzerland, USA, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom. Having published 3 books in the field of technology & policy, Ayse is a member of the IEEE Communications Society, member of the IEEE Technical Committee on Security & Privacy, member of the IEEE IoT Community and member of the IEEE Cybersecurity Community. She also acts as a policy analyst for Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research. Currently, she lives with her family in Silicon Valley and works for Google in Mountain View.


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