Are we marching to Estonia?
It might seem so. According to Nathan Heller in the New Yorker, the small Baltic republic is well on its way to transforming itself “from a state to a digital society.” Under the aegis of e-Estonia, as the nation’s government-led project is called, virtually every service the state deals with, from education to health care to transportation, is being “digitally linked across one platform, wiring the nation.” Savings and efficiencies amounting to two percent of the country’s GDP have already been realized, and cutting-edge innovations, from driverless cars to an elaborately de-centralized system of personal data, are changing the way 1.3 million Estonians (and some 28,000 registered e-residents) conduct business and lead their lives.
Whether you see it as utopia or dystopia, Estonia’s digitopia is where modern societies appear to be heading. Yet as the contributors to this issue ask, how well prepared are we humans for life under the ever-ramifying digital dispensation? Do we even begin to consider what we might be risking when we opt for, or succumb to, the ease, efficiency, and beguilements of online life?
The thread running through the essays in The Human and the Digital, our latest issue, it is that we yet poorly grasp the many perverse effects of the kind of dominion promised by our embrace of the new digital dispensation. To some degree, we are what we make. But when what we make makes us in ways that we fail to understand, the human at the core of culture grows dangerously fragile.
We will be releasing a select number of essays and reviews from this issue on a rolling basis during the coming weeks, starting with the following two:
- “Who’s Afraid of the Frightful Five? Monopoly and Culture in the Digital Age,” by Edward Tenner
- “We’re Here, That’s All,” by B.D. McClay
The full issue, already on its way to subscribers, includes thematic contributions from Christine Rosen, Alan Jacobs, and Leif Weatherby, along with standalone works by Charlie Tyson, Jonathan D. Teubner, S.D. Chrostowska, and Greg Jackson. Browse the table of contents here, and subscribe—if you haven’t yet—here.