Talking about Transitions: Dialogue #5 – Digitalisation and the Anthropocene

In this iteration of Talking about Transitions, we examined the role that digital and other emerging technologies, like AI, play in shaping the Anthropocene and our responses to it. What is the digital Anthropocene, why has it become significant, and what are the key trends? We also addressed the question of how digitalisation is shaping climate action, and what are the steps that need to be taken to ensure the responsible utilisation of these technologies. 

Our dialogue, Digitalisation and the Anthropocene, took place on February 29th, from 5:00 to 6:00 pm IST. 

We live today in the era of the Anthropocene, a period where human activity is significantly shaping the planet’s climate and ecosystems. A critical feature of this epoch is the catenation of natural processes and digital technologies: digital technologies increasingly shape human action and mediate our relationship to ‘nature’. From sensor networks that monitor deforestation in real time, to the use of AI to optimise water and resource consumption, digital has become integral to shaping climate action, and addressing its challenges. At the same time, these technologies also contribute to the harmful impacts of anthropogenic activity on the environment. The pervasive integration and influence of digital technologies in our daily lives, has led scholars to qualify this epoch as the ‘digital Anthropocene’. Thus, the ‘digital’ presents both a challenge and an opportunity to address many of the most pressing environmental and social issues today. 

In this iteration of Talking about Transitions, we examined the role that digital and other emerging technologies, like AI, play in shaping the Anthropocene and our responses to it. What is the digital Anthropocene, why has it become significant, and what are the key trends? We also addressed the question of how digitalisation is shaping climate action, and what are the steps that need to be taken to ensure the responsible utilisation of these technologies. 

During the panel discussion, Astrid Oberborbeck Andersen underscored the parallels between digital technologies and invasive species, illustrating how they infiltrate local communities and reshape their relationships with the environment, ultimately influencing power dynamics and political structures. Pratik Desai’s contributions shed light on the complexities of digitization in agriculture, emphasising the challenges of disseminating knowledge, regulatory hurdles, and the profound social and economic transformations accompanying the adoption of new technologies in farming. Vikrom Mathur’s perspective from a climate policy standpoint further enriched the discourse, highlighting the intricate dilemmas arising from the use of digital tools in climate adaptation and mitigation efforts, particularly regarding their impact on farmer resilience and environmental sustainability. Together, these insights offer a comprehensive view of the multifaceted implications of digitalisation in the anthropocene, showcasing the need for nuanced approaches and considerations in navigating this rapidly evolving landscape.

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