Some argue that all this technology has proven to be no big deal in the past, that we’ve been dealing with it forever. Socrates, for instance, worried that writing would create forgetfulness as memorization became less important. There were similar concerns with the advent of printing presses, radio, television and so forth: the world, it was argued, was heading for hell in a handbasket.
This time may be different, since it’s all encompassing. “Technological determinism” contends that a society’s technology determines its cultural values, its social structure, and, ultimately, its history. We’re living out Moore’s Law, for instance – the number of chips on an integrated circuit doubles at short, regular intervals of from 12 to 18 months. This doubling of our capabilities has totally revamped our lives, and there’s more to come.
We are carried along, mostly blind to our new technologies. They just happen. And one day when the freezer door is talking to me, and a drone delivers my pre-, pro- and post-biotics, I’ll probably not remember that I had a choice in the matter at all.
In the meantime there’s lots of talk about AI, or artificial intelligence. As the digital world prevails, experts predict that man-made super-intelligence will come into play. Nick Bostrom, a Swedish philosopher at the University of Oxford paints a disturbing scenario: if humans create a superior machine that is able to learn at will, it may come to dominate us and forever change the world.
I can follow Bostrom and colleagues well enough, but I don’t think we need to think in outlandish sci-fi terms, as if we lived in a Marvel comic book. Technology’s triumph has already happened, noiselessly and without our notice. I’m ready to run up the white flag and proclaim tech’s victory, our loss.
What then will I do about my smartphone?
Well, I’ve decided to keep it. I’m thinking about the long haul. Should I persist another decade, I expect there will be 10 or 15 models that are newer than mine. I will have a genuine collectible on my hands.
I plan to bundle it up with my old Commodore computer, a slide rule from university days and my old in-car record player. I’m going to sell it all.
Not for about 10 years, though.
I’ll be ready then.
References available upon request
Banner photo credit: Jordan Mcqueen, unsplash.com