1st Edition

Technology and Sustainable Development The Promise and Pitfalls of Techno-Solutionism

Edited By Henrik Skaug Sætra Copyright 2023
    286 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    286 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Technological change is at the core of all major disruptions in human history, and
    revolutions, wars, and general development are regularly connected to some sort of
    technological change. However, not all development is beneficial. While technology has
    fueled great innovations and rapid development, the notion of sustainable development
    has gained prominence as we now experience serious social, economic, and environmental

    This book examines whether technology can be used to fix the very problems caused by
    technology, as the various chapters examine different aspects related to how technology
    has brought us where we are today (which some will say is the best place humanity’s been at
    according to a range of metrics), and whether technology helps or hinders us in our efforts
    to solve the challenges we currently face. The issues discussed cover the three sustainability
    dimensions and include topics such as the materiality of AI, technology in education, AI
    for gender equality, innovation and the digital divide, and how technology relates to power,
    the political system, and capitalism. The chapters all build on the theoretical backdrop of
    technological change, sustainable development, and the UN’s Sustainable Development
    Goals are actively used throughout this book, both to examine how these goals capture or
    overlook central elements of sustainable development, and also to facilitate and create a
    common framework of engagement between the chapters.

    This book provides a novel combination of traditional theories that are explored
    through different case studies, providing the ground for a better understanding of how
    and when technology can – and cannot – be the enabler of sustainable development.
    It is thus an important resource for students of all disciplines, technologists, and those
    developing and applying new technologies. It is also a valuable resource for politicians
    and regulators attempting to harness the power of technology for good, while limiting its
    negative potential.

    The Open Access version of this book, available at www.taylorfrancis.com, has been
    made available under a Creative Commons [Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives
    (CC-BY-NC-ND)] 4.0 license. Funded by Østfold University College.

    Chapter 1 ◾ Introduction: The Promise and Pitfalls of Techno-solutionism

    Henrik Skaug Sætra

    Chapter 2 ◾ Key Concepts: Technology and Sustainable Development

    Henrik Skaug Sætra

    Chapter 3 ◾ Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Solutions: Placing the Climate Emergency at the Center of AI Developments

    Benedetta Brevini

    Chapter 4 ◾ Sustainable Climate Engineering Innovation and the Need for Accountability

    Marianna Capasso and Steven Umb rello

    Chapter 5 ◾ Shinigami Eyes and Social Media Labeling as a Technology for Self-care

    Henrik Skaug Sætra and Jo Ese

    Chapter 6 ◾ Lessons to Be Learnt? Education, Techno-solutionism, and Sustainable Development

    Neil Selwyn

    Chapter 7 ◾ Virtual Reality and Autism

    Anders Dechsling and Anders Nordahl-Hansen

    Chapter 8 ◾ The Technologically Sustained Digital Divide

    Erlend Ingridsønn Nordrum

    Chapter 9 ◾ Spot on SDG 5: Addressing Gender (In-)equality Within and With AI

    Marisa Tschopp and Hanan Salam

    Chapter 10 ◾ A Legal Sustainability Approach to Align the Order of Rules and Actions in the Context of Digital Innovation

    Eduard Fosc h-Villaronga, Hadass ah Drukarch, and Marco Giraudo

    Chapter 11 ◾ Governing Toward Sustainable Development: From a Path-Dependent Transition to a Disruptive One

    Lilja Mósesdóttir and Ivar Jonsson

    Chapter 12 ◾ Capitalism, Sustainability, and Democracy

    Harald Borgebund

    Chapter 13 ◾ Nudging Policy or Crowding It Out? Green Nudges as Ideational Technologies

    Stuart Mills and Richard Whittle

    Chapter 14 ◾ The Fallacy of Disruptive Technologies and the Primacy of Politics: Sustainable Development Goals as an Example

    Imad Antoine Ibrahim

    Chapter 15 ◾ Technology and the Distribution of Power

    Faridun Sattarov

    Chapter 16 ◾ What Does Data Valuation Literature Tell Us About Methods and Dimensions? Implications for City Data Marketplaces

    Petter Kvalvik, Mary Sánchez-Gordón, and Ricardo Colomo-Palacios

    Chapter 17 ◾ Techno-solutionism Facing Post-liberal Oligarchy

    Ivar Jonss on and Lilja Mósesdóttir

    Chapter 18 ◾ The Role of Technology in Alternatives to Growth-Based Sustainable Development

    Henrik Skaug Sætra

    Chapter 19 ◾ Conclusion: The Promise and Pitfalls of Techno-solutionism for Sustainable Development

    Henrik Skaug Sætra


    Henrik Skaug Sætra is a political scientist with a broad and interdisciplinary background and approach, mainly focusing on the political, ethical, and social implications of technology. He focuses specifically on the sustainability-related impacts of AI and has previously published a book and several articles on AI and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

    The widely celebrated benefits of technological development during the past two centuries are now overshadowed by evidence of grave troubles in society, economics, politics, and Earth’s climate, ones often delivered, alas, by the very same set of technical wonders. How are we to think about these astonishing contrasts? The writings gathered in this collection offer rigorous, insightful methods for exploring the major challenges that vex world society today. A treasure chest of theories and case histories, the book offers sustenance for all of those seeking fruitful alternatives.

      --Langdon Winner, Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, author of Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-control as a theme in political thought, and The whale and the reactor: A search for limits in an age of high technology.

      An interesting collection of chapters that reflect on the role of technology vis-à-vis sustainable development. Highly relevant against the backdrop of the imminent risks created by climate change, and rightly critical of technosolutionist approaches, the contributions to this volume helpfully highlight the political aspects of this challenging conundrum. Not to be missed.

      --Mark Coeckelbergh, Professor at the University of Vienna, author of AI Ethics, Green Leviathan, and The Political Philosophy of AI.