Editorial: Technology and Human Rights

By Right Now | 02 Mar 14
Circles and lines

Technology is potential: it has the ability to substantially improve lives and ensure human rights are being met, yet in equal measure, it has the power to put these very rights under threat. And while we are inclined to think of new technology and its impact, such as computers or smartphones, we need to remember that fundamental human traits, such as language, are also technologies. This month at Right Now, we look at the possibilities and pitfalls of technology.

At times, our need to drive new technologies can severely impede the environment. Alexandra Hurley explores the fracking issue, a site of heated debate in NSW. Farmers and landowners alike are protesting the aggressive progress of coal seam gas (or CSG) mining on their properties.

Lyndal Rowlands profiles Global Citizen Journalist Eric Mwamba, who critiques media coverage of extractive industries. Mwamba’s home country (Democratic Republic of Congo) is also home to fundamental parts of technological devices such as phones, laptops and tablets.

Sayomi Ariyawansa complements topic with her investigation Blood and Ore: Conflict Smartphones. The DRC, she explains, is rich in minerals that are key ingredients for smartphones. Mining these products has a significant human cost, and is shrouded in exploitation, conflict and extreme violence.

Our everyday technological devices continue to cause problems after their construction. Erin McGinty explores how the toxic chemicals from incorrect disposal of electronic products in Australia can prove detrimental to the environment and to humans in Ghana.

Meanwhile, Sarah George asks if social media can solve real world problems. “Social media is our own media”, she explains, “it brings visibility to issues which are censored by our politicians and by traditional media.” She examines the issue in light of the “5 Facts You Didn’t Know About ‘Boat People’” campaign.

Television is technology that reflects our lives and shapes our culture. Mabel Kwong asks why, in a country where more than a quarter of us were born overseas, Australian television has a very monotone voice?

Technology can improve health and wellbeing, having a positive impact on the lives of individuals. Technological health advances are nonetheless fraught – we constantly debate which technologies we should use, and to what extent.

Kate Galloway examines legal cases that centre on Assisted Reproductive Technologies. “While a willing donation of sperm or ova to conceive a child may seem to promote personal autonomy, there are many ways in which human dignity can potentially be compromised through use of ART”, she writes.

In After Humanity, technological advances raise questions about what it means to be human, but ultimately, the lines between technology and humanity have always been blurred. In this stunning piece, Scott Arthurson investigates the transhumanist quest for a posthuman state.

The Transitions Film Festival, held from 15-23 February, showcased inspirational documentaries with a focus on technological and social solutions that are paving the way to a better world. We interviewed Daniel Simons, the co-director of the festival, about his hopes for the project’s third installment. Sonia Nair reviewed “Web”, which looks at how an isolated Peruvian village connected to the internet and the outside world for the first time. Maya Borom took a close look at “Easy Like Water”, a film in which explores the creation of floating schools for children who may otherwise miss out on schooling due to flooding in Bangladesh.

Asher Hirsch asks, does government spying violate human rights law?

Isabella Royce sets out (in three dimensions) everything you need to know about 3D printing and human rights.