Building a laptop would have been incredibly expensive during the Middle Ages. Concretely, as expensive as quitting faith, submitting ourselves to the creeds of science for a couple of centuries and dedicating incredible amounts of public interest and policies into the task. And nevertheless, we would still need to fight the social rule that used to take knowledge as private, within those secrecy margins we conveyed to call witchcraft and sorcery.
The board is now flipped. Automation era has begun and in exchange of some inhuman working conditions —’til we can make robots small enough to stop using kids— we get to make millions of electronic gadgets per day. Nowadays technology is affordable, ubiquitous and expansive; it permeates our outfit as much as the space we share together with electromagnetic communication protocols. The newborn process seems to be fed by capitalism’s eager and necessity for growth, but it clearly seems to disregard a not-so-obvious question: are we ready for it?
We must face the fact that social change is constrained by human conditions, while technology obeys to fastening development processes. We must accept that technology is creating a perverse gap in between technological progression and social acquaintance about how technology works. Let’s leave The Singularity aside and focus on what is actually going on with a few examples:
- We went into social networks before considering the issues concerning privacy, social impact or professional interferences.
- We blindly accepted cellphones as useful by obliterating their suitability as tracking and spying devices.
- We allow media to use the Internet as a reliable source instead pushing journalists to leave the office in a quest for the news.
We are just not ready for all this, here and at once. We are releasing control, satisfying our brain economy by abstracting easiness from complex systems. This is a process in which automation takes the handle and technological determinism comes true, not because of a late-nigh technologist prophecy, but because of our lack of care.
As my grandfather, the international bus driver would have said, “it is you who has to drive the machine, not the contrary; otherwise, your cannot to drive”. How Zen and true.
The only way out from this crossroad of necessities, invented necessities, selfish interest and public welfare, lies inside ourselves. In my opinion, we asked too much for The What in detriment of The Why. Our scientific endeavor started as a passionate will for understanding, as a counter-response to the Dark Ages we lived in because of dogmatic creeds; and it turns out that the successive industrial revolutions and the global assumption of capitalism as our most solid model eroded that spirit for the good of profitability.
We must go back to The Why and grasp something else than the sense of holding and belonging. Why social networks? Why cellphones? Why the Internet? Why on everything that roots from our own reason, because a candle in the middle of a forest is asking to be hold by the person it is lighting. We need to take active consciousness of who we are, and put into question if we need social networks, cellphones or even the Internet. As humans we never had all that, and great things arose from our intellectual figures; how is technology making the difference? Why should or shouldn’t it make the difference?
Shall we conceive social rules for interacting with technology, such as making silence prevail over out-loud train conversations on the phone about Justin Biever? Would it be positive to restrain our online presence to avatars or, rather, to consciously diminished versions of ourselves? Could we accept social networks are not “social” but “sharing”, as they work against the more human idea of face-to-face socialization?
I am not here to give answers but to point out what should have been more or less obvious to the governors and economic powers that could potentially change our human experience. It is either humans controlling technology or vice versa. It is on us to rule on how we deal with technology; to chose among passing your trip to work staring to a screen reading fragmented contents or working daily on finishing a book that took years to end. And it is about respecting capitalism or taking an active action into questioning its mechanisms.
The ball is not on the Future. Whether we get empowered or diminished by technology is entirely on us.
P.S.: And why WhatsApp day and night? Why not to wait for the sunset to meet your fellows and share the amazing wonders of Life without spoiling them beforehand trough a screen that surely cannot pay for your face expressions?