fear- part one: tech

“People fear what they do not understand.”

I have heard these words uttered twice in the past 72 hours – both times, the reference was to technology.

In the first instance, a well-known advocate for an entirely different perspective on child-rearing, noted that in current times, even as parents provided their children with technology (smart phones, iPads, computers, etc.), there resides in them great fear about what technology will do to their children – the havoc it will wreak. Is the easy access to information via Google resulting in our children growing up way too quickly, exposed to information and images their brains are simply not developed to process? Is childhood innocence gone at the age of just two once The Device is placed in their little and eager hands? A few weeks ago, I watched in wonderment and a bit of angst as the seven-month old son of a friend became entranced with my cell phone – he would simply not allow me to take it away and replace it with jiggly keys (was there not a time when babies loved jiggly keys?) Will our children-who now text while sitting mere inches from each in the same room- grow up to become disconnected, antisocial beings unable to foster close and loving relationships that require full presence and expressed vulnerability? What physical ailments will manifest themselves from all that swiping and necks inclined ever downward looking into a little screen- remember carpal tunnel syndrome?

“People fear what they do not understand.”

The second time I heard these words was in the movie, Transcendence, starring Johnny Depp in a stunning portrayal of a genius scientist conducting research on artificial intelligence (AI). He becomes a victim of people who fear the implications of his research. It was felt that he and his ilk were attempting to play God, that they could not fully know the consequences of what they were attempting to create. How would we control AI once it was unleashed into an ever technologically connected and dependent world?

“People fear what they do not understand.”

Like parents, governments and corporations provide the means for technology. We feed this thing we do not fully understand because we feel compelled to do so even as it scares us. We think this is what human advancement looks like – ever pushing the boundaries, believing it will make our world a better, more efficient place. Humans are a messy and unpredictable pile of contradictions filled to over flow with “issues” and heavy baggage. That said, do we really wish to bet our future on us? Uh, no! Hence, by funding research into artificial intelligence and willingly underwriting technological gadgets for our children, we may believe that we are providing the world and its future leaders with a distinct advantage. The ethos appears to be that technology- done and used “correctly”-is the manifestation of the best of humanity – our beautiful brain/the clear logic without the messiness of emotionality. It’s all about efficiency because don’t nobody got the time these days, we have to move and move quickly on to the next.

“People fear what they do not understand.”

Still, despite our logic, the gut instincts that are partly responsible for our survival, whisper deep in our Soul to not completely trust technology (don’t believe the hype, it warns). We desperately want to, would be so much easier if we could. But our gut is not having it, and so it dogs us until we relent. Parents give their children the fancy “smart” gadgets, but can only do so comfortably by exerting parental control through the installation of technology that makes this possible. Governments, corporations and the 1% pour billions into the study and application of artificial intelligence while also funding research that will function to mitigate the unforeseen consequences of said technology that might be detrimental to the same humans who produced it.

“People fear what they do not (fully) understand.”

And what we fear, we seek to control in order to rest a little easier-just in case…for to be human is to be fully cognizant-on some level-of our limitations and fallibility.




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