I watched the recent series Capture on the BBC where real-time images can be distorted and changed. This moves from CCTV images to live television. It's all about deep fake technology where a person can appear to be 'live', when it's just a fiction.
Capture is like an extended episode of Black Mirror. It’s also entertaining but, what gets me is how often technology is portrayed in a frightening way. Progress is scary. Or is it?
For all the benefits of the internet, there are downsides, and are the downsides bigger than the upsides?
I have twin boys. Should they use a smartphone or tablet computer? Will it kill their thinking or help their thinking? We have these debates all the time. Is technology helping us or making us more simple? Less able? Less capable?
On the one hand, I would argue it’s absolutely not true. Technology is augmenting humanity to achieve things we could never achieve before. Just look at the moon-shots; the idea of life on Mars; the fact we can send a telescope into space that can see new galaxies; the HD photos of Pluto; and more. Technology is enabling us to achieve incredible feats that were unimaginable just a few years ago.
On the other hand, it is easy to argue that technology is making us more dumb. We don’t need to remember anything anymore, just ask Google. Oh, I had a slice of cake, put it on Instagram. Wow, I can dance, hey TikTok, look at that! Homework? What’s homework? Just cut and paste the answers.
This argument is not new. Every new technology has been argued for and against.
The Luddites fought against the looms, shearing frames, and gig mills that were making them redundant. Were they right?
This discussion is delved into in-depth by Gavin Mueller in his book Breaking Things at Work: The Luddites Are Right About Why You Hate Your Job.
It sounds like an insult. Is it?
What was and what is a luddite?
You probably think it’s some thick idiot peasant, who is an unskilled worker retaliating against the machines.
Am I right?
In which case, you are wrong.
Luddites were actually gifted artisans resisting a capitalist takeover of the production process that would irreparably harm their communities, weaken their collective bargaining power, and reduce skilled workers to replaceable drones. Not the drones we know today, but the machines that automated their work and ability to earn.
This creates a world that is different and it should make us question: are we sleep-walking into a world where we are redundant? Could all of work be automated? Could all of our ideas be faked?
Current Affairs sums it up well:
“The police frighten citizens with robot dogs straight out of Black Mirror, and use drones to spy on unsuspecting beachgoers, while firms like Cambridge Analytica secretly harvest online data in order to predict and influence the behaviour of millions of voters.”
This line also jumped out at me:
“Silicon Valley has armed surveillance capitalism with tools to threaten autonomy not only over our jobs, but our data and our very identities.”
So yes, technology is improving our lives. We no longer need to drive, shop or even clean the house. But do we need to think, challenge and wonder? Is technology taking our very essence – our identity – away?
As a technologist, I am going to obviously say no. As a human, it makes me think. Should we rage against the machine or be a cyborg? It’s a choice. My choice is to augment my life, but is that the right choice?
Most sci-fi loves to create a future where technology defeats humanity. Is that true, as most technology helps humanity progress doesn’t it?
Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...