Change is good (sometimes)

17 Jun 2019

Image: © hwongcc/

As she takes the helm as editor of Silicon Republic, Elaine Burke reflects on what it means to tell the story of science, technology and society – a story of unending change.

Our world is changing. Quite evidently here at Silicon Republic with the departure of our editor for the past 17 years, John Kennedy.

But on the bigger-picture scale, our world is changing. Of course it is, perpetually. As we move through space and time, nothing is in stasis; change is inevitable.

What we recognise as typical today could hardly have been conceived of at the turn of the 20th century, when industrialisation took root. At the same time, there are very few ‘new’ ideas. Much of what we class as novel or innovative is a retread, a revamp, a repackaging of the old in the modern-day style. As we say about the office, a “new hat”.

Another catchphrase we quote so much that I once hung it on the wall is: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

The world of science and technology offers us the ‘new’ every day. It is often groundbreaking. It is sometimes exciting. It is frequently futuristic. But it’s not always right.

Businesses built on models of avaricious scale are at best unsustainable, at worst inherently dangerous. Science at a remove from society makes an elite sport of knowledge, allowing misinformation to proliferate outside its cultivated playing fields. Algorithms are not equipped to be the arbiters of our humanity. There is no progress if people are left behind.

We tout science and technology as the answer to any and all problems when we need to ask harder questions of ourselves. We are shifting how we learn, how we work and how we live atop worn-out structures from a bygone era.

The call for system change has so far been a theme of 2019 and it’s one that runs through the work of Silicon Republic. We have proudly been agents of change on issues we care about – most ardently, diversity and inclusion in STEM.

Ours is not a typical news website. Our publisher, Darren Mc Auliffe, regularly offers a casual reminder of the simplicity of our mission: “We’re just trying to change the world, that’s all.”

A huge ask for a small team in Dublin, perhaps, but a changing world is inevitable. We can only hope to steer change in the right direction.

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic