The Future of the Poor

How Will Technology Affect the Poor?

February 14, 2017


robot on wall


In a future imagined with Transhumans, smart machines, and designer babies, how does the poorest of society fit in?


An article on The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, called The Reality Principle, by Marc Roux, co-founder of the French Transhumanist Association Technoprog, realistically describes what the future might look if greed and the desire to dominate continues to drive our society.


The Reality Principle mainly addresses transhumanism and the poor, but a scenario in which a technology could allow the affluent to have a leg up or even absolute control over the lower classes also applies to designer babies, nootropics (brain enhancing drugs), and artificial intelligence.


Designer Babies


Technology will soon allow for parents to choose common genetic traits such as eye and hair color. As gene editing techniques advance, higher intelligence, better hearing, even night vision may be possible using synthetic genes or genes from other organisms.




As in the movie Limitless, brain enhancing drugs could increase memory and focus for those that can afford it, while the less fortunate are left searching for the remote.


Artificial intelligence


Artificial intelligence is poised to replace a high percentage of workers from almost every sector, including well-paying jobs like accountants and lawyers. As unemployment increases, well educated workers might look for lower paying jobs, leaving it harder for less educated workers to earn a living.


Indifference in Venice


Under Pressure


About the time (2030+), that these disruptive technologies reach their stride, the total population will have increased by more than a billion. Food and water will be in higher demand, with less of it to go around, and countries will be less willing to share resources.


What can help reduce the economic and technology gap?


Some have suggested that a Universal Basic Income (UBI) could aid a society where a rising number of people will be out of work due to automation and artificial intelligence. UBI is where all citizens of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, in addition to any income received from elsewhere.


poor children with laptops


There are people and organizations trying to help narrow the digital divide.


One Laptop per Child has a mission to empower the world's poorest children through education. They provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop.


Close the Gap is an international non-profit organisation that aims to bridge the digital divide by offering donated computers to developing countries. and Project Loon are two projects that plan to bring affordable Internet services to less developed countries.


The Cold Reality


Realistically, the odds are stacked against the poor, unless they can effect change before technology leaves them behind. That begins by looking beyond the day to day struggle, and by learning and speaking out about the technologies and issues that are changing the world we live in. It ends with a society that is more compassionate and sharing.





Digital Divide: The Technology Gap between the Rich and Poor - Digital Responsibility


How technology can help us eliminate, not alleviate, poverty - World Economic Forum


Can Technology End Poverty? - Harvard Business Review


To Really Help the Global Poor, Create Technology They’ll Pay For - Harvard Business Review


Global Citizen - a social action platform


You might think that technology is the solution to poverty – but here’s why you’re wrong - Independent


Let's talk: How can technology change the lives of people in poverty? - PRI


Stephen Hawking warns that great technological advances can leave most people miserably poor. - CNN


Poverty Doesn't Need Technology. It Needs Politics. - The Concourse


Is Technology Widening Opportunity Gaps Between Rich And Poor Kids? KQED News


We Fight Poverty - The Borgen Project


How will future technology affect the poor? - Quora


Technology and Inequality - MIT Technology Review


Science, Technology and Innovation for Poverty Reduction (PDF) - The Institute of Physics


Technology for the Poor Should Help, Not Hurt - Smithsonian Magazine


Using technology to end poverty - The Tribune Trust


Promising uses of technology in education in poor, rural and isolated communities around the world - EduTech


Information and Communication Technologies for Poverty Alleviation - Wikibooks


The tech economy raises wages for everyone but the truly poor - Quartz


Lawyers could be the next profession to be replaced by computers - CNBC


Digital Divide - Standford University


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Financial Services for the Poor program


Apps for the Poor: They're Not What You Think - PC World








Image credits


Painting on wall of Grosvenor Hotel in Torquay, England. from Wikipedia


Indifference in Venice by Son of Groucho via Flickr


OLPC classrooom image by RudolfSimon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons







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