Kyriaki Papageorgiou, Humanity, Technology And The Pandemic Crisis, Forbes, Jun 10, 2020.
The speed and scale with which Covid-19 has spread over the course of just a few months are reconfiguring the way we think and act alongside technology to tackle grand challenges in times of crisis. Since being forced to move our lives indoors and online, we have become dependent on our technological devices to conduct human-to-human interactions beyond the confines of our homes. In addition to elevating technology’s mediating role (the consequences of which are likely to be long-lasting and transformative in many ways), the coronavirus has opened the door to new technological actors, such as robots and artificial intelligence (AI), visibly bringing to life contested scenarios of automated futures that we had only been able to imagine before.
The work of French philosopher and social theorist Michel Foucault, for instance, has shown that state responses to epidemics at different moments in history represent distinct approaches to population management. While isolation and exclusion were regarded as effective to contain leprosy, implementing extreme quarantine measures against the plague signaled the emergence of disciplinary power based on panopticism. In Discipline and Punish (1975) Foucault emphasizes that the Panopticon represents the perfect form for the exercise of control because it “automatizes and deindividualizes power” while becoming a laboratory, “a machine to carry out experiments, to alter behavior, to train or correct individuals.”