Much has been written regarding the rate of technological innovation and how these advancements might provide solutions to the emerging challenges facing humanity in the 21st century and beyond.A number of new technologies raise questions of our relationships to these technologies, and will be crucial to consider in terms of their sociological and cultural impact. Ultimately we must consider how specific technologies might either preserve or threaten human dignity, and thus what sorts of empowerment or regulation will be most appropriate. The integrity ofthe social fabric at various strata relies upon—often unspoken—understandings held in common by individual members of those social strata.
The idea of a social contract has a long history, dating back to various ancient cultures, ranging from the ancient Egyptians, Hammurabi, Greek, Roman, Chinese, Indian and the traditions of the three monolithic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. However, a more recent exploration started with Grotius, Hobbes, Locke and, of course, Rousseau, who explored the limits of individual freedom, and the power of the sovereign. From Locke`s conception of the state as a “neutral judge”, to Rousseau, Rawls and others, all perspectives of the social contract ultimately seek to explore why rational individuals would consent to give up some of their freedoms as a trade-off for living in a political order.
A common thread in the social contract theory is the assumption that the state and political order exist for the general interest of the people, where life, liberty and property can be protected. What does this mean in an age of rapidly emerging technologies, Big Data, intense mobility and deepening connectivity and interdependence that transcend normal sovereign borders? Now seems to be an appropriate time to reassess some of our long-held credos about our liberties, the functions of the sovereign and the limits of control.