Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Dark Side of Technology

Is it really *you* who remembered his birthday?


This article aims at presenting the basic facts behind technology today and its effect on our lives. Many people think of technology as something absolutely good, positive and "cool". They think of how much technology has helped us in our everyday work and lives and do not even consider that there are bad things that come out of that "good" thing. I will show here some of these bad things and propose ways to minimize their effect, just by remembering that we are humans and technology is not...

You speak bad about technology, so why do you write in Blogger?

Someone might argue that I am a hypocrite to use technology to write this article and at the same time speak bad about that technology. Let's get things strate: I do not write bad about technology in general. I do not think technology is only evil and not good as well. I just say that there is a dark side that most of us forget about and that is what I am trying to show in this article. So all things (hopefully) cleared up, let us begin.

The Light Side

In order to do justice to technology, I will start by addressing its "Light Side" first. It is true that technology has helped humans in many ways. One cannot talk about technology and not talk about the great advances in medical technology that has saved thousands of lives (even though one must take into serious consideration the fact that medicine is a field where the human factor plays a much more vital role than the technology factor). Or the great advances in space technology that has allowed us to explore other planets or galaxies. Or the tremendous progress humans have achieved in the communications technology sector, that allows them (and me as we speak) to stay in touch with favorite faces or to talk to loved ones. And of course who can forget the great advantages that technology use has in the fields of production in general. Every time we open the light or cook our meal, technology is the one to thank.
So... Thank you Technology!
But... Wait a minute!
Haven't you done anything bad AT ALL?
Even the most good person makes mistakes or "bad" things. Is it really possible that our new friend, namely "Technology" be so...perfect?!? Can it be true that such a complicated and life-changing thing does not actually have ANYTHING inherently wrong? Hmmmm... let's think more carefully...

The Dark Side...

As in most things, the excessive use of something leads to unwanted results. That is the case with technology. Too much using of technology leads to de-humanization and that is something noone should want to happen to himself. Below the two main problems that the use of technology causes will be outlined and discussed. Both are related to the main inherent problem that technology has: it is NOT human. Many people like to think that computers think like humans, but the facts say otherwise...

GPS technology: Does it give control, or takes it away from our hands? 

Too much technology leads to loss of control

Imagine you are in your car and want to go to your best friend's house. You type the address of his house in your brand new GPS device and the device starts talking to you, giving perfect instructions on how to get to your destination. After half an hour you are there! Technology has given you absolute control and you can now go anywhere you like with that perfect GPS! Thank God scientists made it!
Correct? Not exactly...
This are not always how the look...
Even though most people think technology gives them more control over theis lives, in fact the opposite happens. Let me explain my self. Before some months I was constrantly travelling abroad for work. So every Monday I took a taxi to go to the airport. I live near an exit to a highway that leads to the airport, so it was easy for the taxi drivers to get there. Easy, as long as they did NOT have a GPS... When the taxi was equiped with a GPS device for some reason the device guided the driver to a different more distant road. I do not know why this happened, the road was pretty old and known to everyone. The point is that the taxi drivers who just listened to the GPS machine instead of thinking on their own, went the wrong way! (fortunately I was there to correct them). So technology in that case actually removed control from the hands of humans! Someone who does not know where he goes, he will still not know where he goes even with a GPS on his hand. The GPS will "know" instead...

So drive yes, but try to really "know" (you, not your GPS) where you are going.
After all the friend is yours to visit, not the machine's... Right? Or maybe not...?

You press the button, a missile is launched and innocent persons are killed.
However this does not trouble you at all.
After all it is not your fault, the computer malfunctioned again...
Right or wrong?

Too much technology leads to loss of responsibility

Imagine you are responsible for the payments in a company. You run everyday a specific batch program that calculates all salaries and then sends automatic payments orders to the company's bank in order to pay the employees. Suppose one day the program crashes! Everyone calls that they are not paid! They hold you responsible! What do you do? Simple... You just answer "The program has crashed! It is not me!" and go on with your work as usual. After all, it is NOT YOUR fault, right?
Now imagine you are at war. You are responsible for the control of a huge missile launcher. Suddently the computer alarms you that enemies are approaching. You immediately press some buttons and activate the missiles. Seconds later the missiles hit their targets and you feel good everything has gone well. The next day you read at the papers that 100 innocent people were killed by that missiles, that accidentally hit thw wrong targets. This does not trouble you at all. After all it is not your fault, the computer malfunctioned again... Right or wrong? Well, actually you are wrong!
Let's pause for one moment and think: what does the use of a technology tool as complicated as a computer mean? Who really *acts* in the two cases mentioned above? The human is the correct answer. Or to say it better: "It should be the correct answer". Unfortunately in many cases the interference of a computer or even a machine is enough for the people involved to simply deny any responsibilities. It happens all the time, in our everyday lifes. Think of it. It is not the exception, it is the rule! And what do we do about it? Nothing! We just accept the fact that "the damn machine will break up someday" and have found a powerfull ally in our evasive maneuvers at work (ar, worse, at war). It is sad, but since people stopped engaging enemies face-to-face on the combat field and started pushing buttons to kill them, they forgot that they kill people when they press those buttons...

So use technology, yes.
But remember you are the ultimate responsible for what happens!
YOU act, not the machine!

It is really a problem that most people today refer to the computer as an "actor" and not as a machine which just executes human orders. That problem can only be solved if we reset the parameters of the system to their proper values: Humans are humans, machines are machines. As simple as that.

People talk via the Internet rather than talking live to each other. Is this "human"...??? 

Too much technology leads to de-humanization

It is common for a lot of people today to sit in front of their computers for many hours during a day. It is also common for many people today to use the Internet (we are here anyway, aren't we?) to connect to other people, conduct online meetings ar exchange files and ideas. These things are so common that we sometimes forget the human way to meet: by simply meeting one-on-one!
Let me tell you a short story a friend of mine once told me. The story related to a person who someday died due to an accident. One day my friend was surfing in the Internet and stumbled upon the page of that person on a popular online social network. He was then amazed to see that many of the online "friends" of the person who had died, continued posting messages on that person's personal page!!!
The online "friends" of that person were so "close friends" that did not even know that that guy had passed away!!! They continued "talking" to a web page... The continuous use of an online medium for talking and connecting to friends had led to the complete de-humanization of the whole process...

Let us consider another similar example. Say you use an electronic calendar to remember all your friends birthdays. So one day the birthday of your best friend comes and the program reminds you of that. What has happened? Is is really "you" who remembered the birthday? How would it seem to you if your best friend did not remember your birthday because his computer has malfunctioned?

How would it seem if a music band won the Grammy Awards, without singing, but with the help of technology? Do you think this is too much? Think again. Milli Vanilli actually did it!

This is one of the most serious inherent problems of technology: that it is not "human".
And the more you use it the most you get driven away from the life nature has destined for humans to live. It is not a matter of going back to the prehistoric ages. This is not what I am saying. I am simply pinpointing the fact that we should interact directly with each other if we are to stay "humans". Sending mass SMS messages to invite people to our party, is not "normal".... Degrading your personal friends to a bulk spam SMS sending process is certainly not "human". The same applies for sending bulk spam messages to many people via online social networks. If you care for a person, then call him or pay him/her a visit. Do not let a computer "talk" to him/her. Imagine for a moment the next step: computers sending automatically messages for "Happy new year" to your friends. Would you consider that message as a real message from your friend? Would you answer such a message? Me, certainly not...

The problem is not whether computers can think as humans do. They cannot.
The problem is that humans have unfortunately started to think like computers...

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