LAW: Line must be drawn before technology becomes all-encompassing

Helen Law

The current trend in technological advancement points to a disturbing future. In a few hundred years, the human species may exist in a pampered, content state in which all of our needs are doted on by non-feeling robotic surroundings. In our current mentality, we find this image relatively appalling. The keyword here is “relatively.” With each generation, our cultural limits for technological integration recede. With every new wave of youth, digital devices are incorporated more into their lives than the previous generation, who then observe uncomfortably with discontent. Our grandparents find our cell phone and internet usage appalling, and we find it entirely ordinary. According to the Council for Research Excellence, the average adult spends eight hours daily in front of a screen, whether it is a computer, television, or smart phone. That’s far more time than our grandparents ever spent viewing. And the incorporation of digital devices into our daily lives is unlikely to ever stop; technology and our comfort with it will just continue growing exponentially. Even among the most modern demographic—ourselves as teenagers—this negative attitude toward the future is somewhat prevalent. We (15-25 year olds) are disturbed at the idea of our younger brothers and sisters using technology constantly, without stop. Our generation has a certain format for which we use technology. We have separate, distinct lines between digital entertainment and other daily activities. A peer of ours will make time to play Xbox and then go to a bookstore or wander about in a shopping mall. The next age group, though, are merging the two. Consider Google Glasses for example, a device the Google corporation is working to sell in the future. Basically, they’re clear computer screens for glasses. An individual wearing them will access the internet constantly, indistinct from other engagements. As in, the internet is always literally in their face. Think again of our grandparents’ attitude regarding our cellphone or internet use and compare that to your own disturbance at Google Glasses. One way to accurately put into perspective the exponential rise of digital device usage is Moore’s Law, which measures the actual advancement of the technology itself. Curiously, our usage of technology seems to parallel its evolution in efficiency. Moore’s Law is the mathematical observation that the processing speed and memory limit for computers would double every 18 months. So far, the rule has been unwaveringly accurate in the entire 47 years since Gorden E. Moore first proposed the theory. Computers are constantly becoming more powerful and efficient, and they probably will never stop. As long as they continue to become more efficient, they will take up a greater portion of our daily lives. With this clear pattern present and technological capacity steadily increasing, one must speculate as to what life will be like in 200, 300 years. Assuming the pattern continues, eventually technology will completely consume our existence. As in, three centuries from now an individual will live with every single one of their needs met by devices. If you’ve ever watched the movies Wall-E , Surrogates , The Matrix , or basically any other future-themed science fiction movie, you have a general understanding of this speculation. It’s easy to feel intense disgust or disbelief at this possible lifestyle. But once again, consider your grandparents and their disposition to our technology, and our attitudes toward the newer generations. The point is that this could be entirely relative, as in our negative opinions are entirely unjustified. Our feelings regarding the future could be entirely fueled by our own arbitrary circumstantial prejudice. However, this situation can be viewed from a non-relativist perspective. A non-arbitrary standard can be drawn, based on philosophy from Richard Dawkins of Oxford University. Dawkins states that the morality of a cultural activity or a culture itself can be determined by the suffering that results from it. Suffering, of course, is a subjective term. For our purposes, suffering is defined as “diminishing the quality of one’s life”. Surely, the “most real” of something has the greatest quality. For instance, you would rather buy juice made of real fruit rather than just flavoring and sugar. The value of a piece of jewelry is defined by how pure the mineral is that composes it. So, by these standards, we can conclude that technology entirely supplementing our needs diminishes the quality of our lives. Technology, at this point, is the “artificial flavoring” replacing real fruit. A better direction for our society to sway would be using technology to enhance our lives, rather than replace it. We continue to engage in “natural” activities, with technology added to be useful during our tasks. Instead of walking on a treadmill in front of a TV turned to National Geographic, one would take a hike through a real forest, using a smartphone to scan and identify flora and fauna for amusement. We can use technology to help us go further and faster in the wilderness, and push our limits in any subject. We can design gear so that we can dive deeper into the ocean, climb higher cliffs and create better artistic masterpieces. Let technology help us appease our sense of curiosity, not blot it out or distract us from our real, ultimate goal: discovery. Helen Law is a staff writer for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.