Technological development is changing and updating procedures while redefining what it means to be a human. The Fourth Industrial Revolution sparked the dawn of the massive digitalization of society; technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and robotics are both automating operations and becoming part of our own bodies and minds, radically shifting cultures and the spread of knowledge. This poses a major challenge; redefine previously solid concepts and systems such as the complex social, political and economical layers that compose a national identity and citizenship.
Identity was once used to define a natural state of being from birth. Age, race, gender, and nationality were firmly fixed and these demographic descriptions determined your stature in the world. With globalization, the world began to feel smaller and traditional borders have begun to blur or, in some cases, even vanish.
esides globalization, technology is also helping citizens to become more borderless: it enables us to connect to anyone, at any time, even across continents. The displacement of older categories has brought us to a moment when our identities are more like collages of scattered elements we collect along the way, rather than something fixed since the day of our birth, kept unchangingly until even post-mortem.
In other words, if citizenship was once the recognition of a person as a member of a nation state, technology is now forcing us to rethink this model. The identity of any given person is therefore shifting to an unfixed and undefinable set of characteristics, a fluid amount of information that changes as fast as updates on social media profiles. We are moving towards decentralized citizenship, one less about where we are from, and more about what we want and what we believe. However, as long as we live in a world where the internet is not accessible to everyone and governments struggle to be digital-first, not all citizens will be capable of experiencing the bright side of a digital, global identity. In addition to half the population of the world disconnected from the internet, the United Nations Population Division estimates that because of their civic condition, there are almost 10 million stateless human beings who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and the freedom of movement.
Still, every system we interact with today has a digital component: from education to government - all geographically attached, even though internet access is remote. Thereby, the ultimate exclusion of people from the political system would likely be powered by digital inequality, as government services move increasingly online. With that in mind, it is important not only to make internet available to all people as a common right, but to offer a more just web in which users are not victims of content bubbles and data injustice.
Moreover, if people develop digital literacy fluency, they will be able to participate more equally in digital policy-making. This level of empowerment could shift society towards a more seamless model of government procedures. Closing the digital divide may play a critical role in the development of emerging economies, improving social and economic equality ratios and favoring social mobility, boosting innovation and economic growth.
In the coming years, we may learn that citizenship is not a final destination, but a continuous process, constantly evolving and changing along with technology. Therefore, Digital Citizenship comes from mutual construction powered simultaneously by the government and the people, mediated by digital tools empowering and catalyzing individual power. Institutions would also be designed from a people-oriented viewpoint, making it possible to finally reinforce the interconnection and responsibility of each part of society in the development of a more desirable future.
The Envisioning research team and a selection of curated specialists in social sciences, technology and futurism, carefully dissected these scenarios and changing paradigms and separated 102 technologies, assessing each of them using NASA's Technology Readiness Level (TRL), from 1 (the lowest level of technology maturation) to 9 (technology is already being fixed and incorporated into new systems). Our interactive visualization allows you to navigate between technologies, each with an explanatory summary and description of the current state of development. Their position on the map reflects their level of readiness.
We hope, alongside this visualization, to inspire change through knowledge, enabling any viewer to understand how and when these technologies will impact the future of society.
Envisioning is a virtual research institute. We provide technological foresight to policy and decision makers worldwide. Our global team of academics, hackers and designers study technology to understand accelerating change. We share our work with our own tools, methodology and design.