Our Future Is Maybe Not So Bright or Smart?

Sunday, February 24, 2013
posted by elizabeth @ 8:50 PM

One of the characters in Faharenheit 451, Mildred Montag, along with most of the book’s society, mindlessly watches television on screens that cover their walls.  Books are illegal and human emotions are scarce.  Technology has taken the place of thinking and decision making. The 1953 dystopian novel shows what happens to society when decisions are taken away from us, and technology fills the void.  I was reminded of this book yesterday (2.23.13) as I read Evgeny Morozov’s piece in the Wall Street Journal called, “Is Smart Making Us Dumb?”  He talks about how “smart technology” of today is taking our decision making processes away, all in an effort to re-engineer society.  Does this scare you as much as it scares me?

First, I do not want to be like a human robot.  Nor do I want my precious children to be an empty shell like Mildred, watching TV, taking her sleeping pills, not making decisions (or even aware that she’s not making decisions), devoid of feelings and thought processes.  As Morozov states in his article, the Google CFO, Patrick, Pichette, said in 2010 that his company is really an engineering company that is trying to fix a broken place.   While this world is not perfect, it is not broken in need of “big brother, big government, or big app” to heal what ails us.   Our opportunities to grow as individuals specifically come from the times where things are not going as planned, as perfected, as hoped, or even as feared.

Not all smart technology is bad of course.  Some technology is clearly helpful and welcomed.  But some smart technologies will take away our freedom to over indulge in chocolate or tortilla chips.  It will take away our opportunity to find a new, scenic route to our destination because we veer off the shortest and most energy efficient road.   Smart technology will take away the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.  And, while we slowly give away our freedoms to gadgets and apps, our government will continue to take away what might be left.  All in the name of what is best for society.  Let’s fix this broken, unfair, unequal society they say.

As Morozov writes, the smart technology that allows us to track our health today as a novelty (weight, diet, steps taken in a day) may soon be a requirement for health insurance.  And, our government has already taken away the freedom to say no to health insurance.   Will the government soon require us to eat our mandated fruits and vegetables?  Don’t roll your eyes.  The latest dystopian novel that swept the country, The Hunger Games, shows what happens when the government has too much control.  The good people of Panem  willingly – willingly — gave up their rights and freedoms for “bread and entertainment.”  Is that what we are doing, too?  I argue yes.   A little bit of fascinating technology isn’t always so little.  A little government intervention to ensure everyone is equal does not stay little.  A little of this.  A little of that. It adds up.   I worry what our future will be when we give up our decision making abilities through the avenues of smart technologies and a government who thinks they are smarter than us.

WSJ: Are Smart Gadgets Making Us Dumb?:  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324503204578318462215991802.html?KEYWORDS=When+SMart+makes+us+Dunb

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