#0431: Slavery in a digital age - LØRN.TECH Catharina Drejer


#0431: Slavery in a digital age

Expørt: Catharina Drejer


fra Tankesmien Skaperkraft

Med lørner Silvija Seres

In this episode of LØRN, Silvija talks to an advisor for the think tank Skaperkraft, Catharina Drejer, about blockchain and slavery in the digital age and how it takes place. “Technology is no silver bullet. New technologies such as blockchain, machine learning and big data mining have great potential for fighting human rights abuses such as slavery.” – Catharina Drejer

Noen kjappe med ekspørt Catharina Drejer

Catharina Drejer.

Title and company:
Advisor Tankesmien Skaperkraft.

MA in Slavery & Liberation with the University of Nottingham (MA thesis om blockchain teknologi)

Author of the book #Slavetech – a snapshot of slavery in a digital age.

Running, photography, being on the water.

Who are you and how did you become interested in technology?
My name is Catharina Drejer and I am an advisor for the think tank Skaperkraft. I focus mostly on the issue of slavery and what modern technology does to enslave people, as well as how it is used to free people.

What is your most important role at work?
The most important aspect of my role it to take a critical look at both sides of technology. As Melvin Kranzberg says, technology is neither good nor bad, but it is not neutral either.

What are you focusing on within your sub-branch?
I have focussed a lot on blockchain technology to see what it has to offer in relation to combatting slavery (digital ID, tracing supply chains, birth registration, etc.).

Why is this exciting?
It’s exciting to see its potential, but I also like to stay grounded and not be swept away by the hype of a new tool. In the case of human rights, we are dealing with real people and they must be protected from the potential harmful effects of technology. Good intentions are great but won’t get us far in developing solid and sustainable solutions.

What do you think are the most interesting controversies?
That many NGOs are now turning to technology to solve problems, despite many of them having minimal experience in that area. This is important because some of the technology being developed is not useful. Collaborations are essential to close language gaps between sectors and develop good and sustainable technology.

What is your own favourite example of this technology?
My book on the pros and cons of technology in relation to slavery. It looks at how technologies like WhatsApp, Snapchat and Skype are being used to enslave and traffic people. But it also shows how such apps can and are being used to give slavery survivors a voice.

Can you name any other good examples, nationally or internationally?
I quite enjoy it when we find new uses for technologies that are already out there and widely used by people.

What do you think needs to be considered for the future?
To take into account that when technology touches people’s lives, especially vulnerable groups like those enslaved or freed, we must think long term (data storage, privacy, long term effects). Which is all about ethics! The “fail fast and try again” mantra can be quite dangerous when it relates to these types of groups.

Is there anything we do well in this field here in Norway?
I think that Norway is great at innovating, especially around police work and criminal investigations. There are some great examples of new digital tools being used to fight crimes like slavery and human trafficking.

Can you recommend any good material to read/view in your field?
My book.

Do you have a favourite quote?
I think what Melvin Kranzberg, a professor in the history of technology, wrote in July 1986 still applies: “Many of our technology-related problems arise because of the unforeseen consequences when apparently benign technologies are employed on a massive scale. Hence many technical applications that seemed a boon to mankind when first introduced became threats when their use became widespread.”

What do you think is the most important takeaway from our conversation?
Technology is no silver bullet. New technologies such as blockchain, machine learning and big data mining have great potential for fighting human rights abuses such as slavery. But we must not forget that we are dealing with real, vulnerable people. Good intentions are great but won’t get us far in developing solid technology that truly solves problems.

Dette lørner du:

Human Rights
Dark web

Anbefalt litteratur:


Today, it is estimated that there are more than 40 million slaves. To fight modern slavery, we must change the way we look at slavery today. As long as our understanding of slavery lies in the past, we cannot see the terrible crimes that can happen right in front of our eyes. Today, much of this is happening in "Cyberspace", a shady digital world that lies outside our laws and human rights conventions.

Catharina Drejer

Dette er Tankesmien Skaperkraft

The think tank Skaperkraft was founded in Oslo on April 29th, 2011 by 70 individuals affiliated to most Christian denominations in Norway. These founders have their daily occupation within most sectors of society, including the academic, political, business, health and educational sectors. kaperkraft is to stimulate reflection, debate and engage people to actively and positively participate in the building of society. Skaperkraft is based on the thinking that each individual human being has infinite value and on our common responsibility for the development of sustainable and inclusive communities in our European societies.


Slavery feeds off the digital age. Share your brief thoughts on how to curb it.

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