Take a moment and have a good long look at our world today - specifically our scientific world. I've found myself doing that quite frequently as of late. We appear to be on the verge of a new technological revolution that is the modern day equivalent of the personal computer revolution of prior decades. Almost suddenly, artificial intelligence has sprung upon us in a great wave of media hype. Self-driving cars, robots (yes even sex robots), robotic weapons of war are all on the verge of joining such miracles of modern know how as the drones that now dot the earth doing the nasty business of killing people from a video terminal. Brave new world indeed.
These technologies all have intended consequences, but they also have many unintended consequences - at least to the normal mind. Take for instance cellular phones. Two decades ago the mobile phone, as it was known, was strictly a tool for well off business people to remain in contact while literally mobile. It's use then exploded when much cheaper versions were marketed to the public. They became popular, but it wasn't until those cellular phones became mini-computers that owning one became a must. Now every child, and every adult has one. Even the poorest populations, the least able to afford such luxuries (like India for example) find a way to get them and become "connected". All these years later humans have gone from being "erectus" to becoming "hunched". Hunched meaning that whether walking, sitting, or even communicating people have their heads and necks bent down toward the source of their interest - the "smart" phone screen.
There is an ominous warning for all of us from the cellular revolution - we are changing. Not the sort of change that elevates the human spirit, but rather the sort of change that isolates humans one from another. That's perhaps the best way to characterize the effects of our current technological dependency - "human isolation". Take that a step further. Consider what the technological community has in store for us. Self-driving cars for instance. Why do we need self driving cars? We have all the necessary skills to drive our own cars - at least most of us. Perhaps the reasoning is us humans will have more time then to focus our attention on other tasks - like starring endlessly into our smart phones...
The real kicker though has to be the personal robotic evolution. You may have noticed that the biggest media splash on robotics has been reserved for sex robots. Last I checked there were roughly the same number of each sex in most populations, so why the need for robots to do the job? Would it free us from having to have a relationship with our significant other so that we could maintain a normal sexual relationship? Perhaps it will free us from having a relationship with another human at all. A robot for cleaning and housework. A sex robot for that need. And of course cyber space will satisfy the need to communicate and socialize. However, is it really sex to have a one way gratification with a piece of machinery? Is it really independent living when a robot feeds you and cleans up after you? Is it really freedom to travel in a vehicle that drives without you?
Some people will say yes. The more technology the more freedom. The one question these people normally have a hard time answering is: The freedom to do what? Also, freedom at what cost? We don't have to travel to see the world anymore - simply watch tv, or if that's too old fashion, get an app and watch other people do it. There's also things like Google Earth. We don't have to count money anymore, simply press a button on your smart phone and it can count and send it for you. With "artificial intelligence" you won't have to think anymore, so more time to think doesn't seem to be in the equation.
It would seem that technology, present and in the near future, really just has one definite effect on us all: we are becoming much less human. We are in fact becoming more like the machines that are sold to us as making our lives that much easier. That much less stressful. Strange then that modern life is wholly characterized by massive stress throughout the world, and whole masses of people who "just can't find the time" or are "too busy". That's an odd by product of a technological revolution meant to make our lives better isn't it? The rat race, the road rage, the violent crime, the break down of the family and marriages all signal something quite different.
The real and true effect of all this technology, soon to be compounded with much more dangerous evolutions, is the isolation of the individual person from those around him/her. That isolation takes us back to a time before humans gathered into communities from their individual caves. It takes us back to a time when we could not communicate with each other, except perhaps with grunts and groans. It turns us away from human values like compassion, empathy, love, understanding, and the like. In its place it leaves us with rationalization, efficiency, etc. We have become emotionless observers of others framing our existence as a species into the cold calculations of technological dependence. We cannot think for ourselves. We cannot act for ourselves. Unless we have a machine to assist us with it. After all, we now live in a world where we are seriously discussing the "ethical ramifications" of having sex with a machine. Need I say more.
Just as any species can eventually become extinct, mankind is no different. Perhaps it is even becoming arguable that mankind is already extinct, and a "machine-kind" has replaced him in the name of "progress". Perhaps we are now incapable of independent thought, or emotion unless we are prompted to it by some artificial means - and by those that control those means. In that way it seems we have in a sense become the "androids" of science fiction lore. Half human. Half machine. Unable to feel real emotion, or express it, and simply created for efficiency. If we aren't there yet, then we better be very aware of the dangers these new "artificial intelligence miracles" hold for us. We can't afford, as a world, to become any less human than we already are. We can't afford to inherit the earth, but lose our souls. Our souls are what makes us different than any other species. Without that soul we can easily face the same extinction that many species before us have.
Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)