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Technological advances and their implications

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I’m getting increasingly concerned by our technological advance and I want to know what your thoughts on the matter are. As a computer programmer, technology plays a significant role in my life. As time advance, I’m developing a love-hate relationship with it. On one side, it’s how I make a living and pretty much the only skill that I have, and when I’m not too cognitively impaired (this tend to come and go), I even enjoy working with technologies.

On the other hand, especially when I don’t feel so well, I feel technologies become a burden. There is many factors to that. There for one my tendency for internet addiction, the short attention span it develop but also the mental fatigue of handling that ever increasing complexity.

We cannot deny the good side of it, neither the irony of writing this on a forum that allows people from around the world to connect in a way that wasn’t possible 30 years ago. Still, I’m skeptical that the good side balance the ill effects. Some are more optimist than I am, Shinzen Young might be a good example. The folks at Buddhist Geeks are in part dedicated to the question, but since they are looking more at the positive side of the equation, it sometimes comes out as naïve.

There are many debates to have. From environmental impact, social impact, psychological implications, and so forth. This post was more triggered by personal concerns, so my reflection doesn’t goes much beyond the impact I noticed first hand. For instance, in the last few weeks, I did some experiment with  Watson User Modeling and it got me to reflect on the advance of artificial intelligence and how its applications.

While you might have heard of how Watson can win at Jeopardy and it’s going to be a great to assist doctors in their diagnosis, I got to be exposed to the less glorious potentials uses for Watson and how it is marketed. Watson has been essentially designed to assist marketers in profiling consumers’ personalities.

We are all already the subject of targeted ads. A few years ago, I went through a breakup and Gmail picked up some keywords in my e-mail and I was targeted with relationship counselling. This was more than 5 years ago. If you never ventured in the world of online marketing, you might be shocked by the level of sophistication it got today. Marketing is an old business (Side note: watch The Century Of The Self if you want to see a compelling exposé on how Freudian theory was key in the development of the consumer society).

Still, with artificial intelligence coming into play, marketers’ ability to map human behavior and personalities will reach an entirely new level. All our mental weaknesses, our cravings, our desires for an identity, will be analyzed at a scale and with a precision never seen before. This project of setting booby traps for the human mind is only growing in scale unopposed. To make the matter worse, western psychology, the field that should be the most concerned about human well-being, has positioned itself in a way that make it complicit about it. And don’t get me started about positive psychology, someone close to me got into it and I don’t have many things positive to say about it.

I will end my gloomy rant before it get too depressing. Maybe behind all this is some other issue and I’m just not looking at it from the right angle. There are surely positive avenues, neuroscience being one of which that give me great hope. If only we can keep fRMI from the hands of marketers…

RE: Technological advances and their implications
Answer
1/10/15 10:40 PM as a reply to Simon T..
While we're slightly being neo-Luddites, Humans Need Not Apply is worth watching. I consider it alarmist but it makes good points that are relevant here.

I actually came across a clip of Lowen from that Century of the Self documentary the other week. I'm glad Lowen makes an appearance. The third part of the doc, the part including Reich, is the only part missing from the link you gave *slips tinfoil hat on quietly*. I downloaded the doc to see how misrepresented Reich was. There were several inaccuracies, FWIW. Freud didn't hate Reich. Reich expanded on Freud's early theories. Reich's formulation of the primary and secondary drives was the only part of his theories that were opposite to that of Freud. The documentary missed the key word in Reich's formulation of the primary drive, which becomes perverted as a result of sexual repression -- love. And, Reich wasn't arrested for selling orgone accumulators nor did he claim they could cure cancer. He reported a few cases of regressed cancer and suggested further research was warranted. Even Reich's daughter misrepresented Reich in that documentary. Reich didn't claim that "better orgasms" eliminated neuroses, he claimed that surrendering completely to the pleasurable sensations of orgasm and the rhythmic muscular contractions at the climax of loving sex eliminated neuroses (though it's true this is definitely 'better'). And, for that to happen all sexual perversions would have to first be eliminated -- sadism, masochism, guilt, etc. And, I dunno whether Reich lost his mind at the end of his life with the UFO stuff. To be fair, he was persecuted and kicked out of so many countries and societies for his work it wouldn't surprise me at all if he did start to lose it at the very end. I'll watch the rest of the doc later, it looks good.

It seems that Huxley's vision of a pacified entertainment state is being realized with technology. Also, it seems like a decline in our ability to concentrate and manage attention is correlated with technology. Though, there are also numerous boons to technology: ease of communication, access to information, alternative energy sources, etc. There's so much information available now and the world is so complex that both a pessimistic and optimistic perspective can be supported. Truly, I see no way to 'objectively' decide which will pan out. Then, pragmatically, an optimistic perspective is the preferable choice from an individual perspective.

EDIT:
Oh, yeah and Orwell's vision is also being realized. Surveillance state, restriction of language, etc. Though, the situation we live in wasn't captured neatly by Orwell or Huxley. Reality is more complex than both.

RE: Technological advances and their implications
Answer
1/10/15 10:41 PM as a reply to Simon T..
The age we're entering (or perhaps, have already entered) is a time of transition where the human species will soon no longer need to work.  The advance of technology will EVENTUALLY be a pure positive because of this.  The time of transition will, undoubtedly, be chaotic, though.  The entire concept of economy and resource distribution is going to have to change, and a lot of people are going to fall through the cracks.  T echnological advancement will streamline companies and there just won't be jobs anymore. It's already happening in poor countries - it's been happening since the industrial revolution began, really.  So my view of the whole thing is mixed.  It'll be great for future humans, but we might be in for a rough ride.

It's actually fairly easy to break free from technological addiction on a personal level - and probably worth it these days.  I'm always suprised how compulsive people seem to be about their phones/facebook/games.  I was like that as a kid, though, and just lost interest in it, so maybe it's a phase we all go through at some point, haha.

You know what might eventually happen, though?  In the same way that our cells evolved to function as an organism, maybe humanity is evolving into a kind of hive mind.  There are lots of similarities to organic patterns in the way our cities run and how our politics seem to work.  Maybe technology is just the new nervious system of the planet.

Oh, and the ad thing.  Yeah, I totally agree with that.  I stopped logging in to google (though, they probably are still tracking me...) and got rid of my facebook a while back.  Odd thing is, people seem to like that kinda stuff.  I suppose, as Orwellian as it is, it's probably nice to see commercials for things you're actually interested in.

RE: Technological advances and their implications
Answer
1/12/15 9:55 AM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Droll Dedekind:
While we're slightly being neo-Luddites, Humans Need Not Apply is worth watching. I consider it alarmist but it makes good points that are relevant here.

I actually came across a clip of Lowen from that Century of the Self documentary the other week. I'm glad Lowen makes an appearance. The third part of the doc, the part including Reich, is the only part missing from the link you gave *slips tinfoil hat on quietly*. I downloaded the doc to see how misrepresented Reich was. There were several inaccuracies, FWIW. Freud didn't hate Reich. Reich expanded on Freud's early theories. Reich's formulation of the primary and secondary drives was the only part of his theories that were opposite to that of Freud. The documentary missed the key word in Reich's formulation of the primary drive, which becomes perverted as a result of sexual repression -- love. And, Reich wasn't arrested for selling orgone accumulators nor did he claim they could cure cancer. He reported a few cases of regressed cancer and suggested further research was warranted. Even Reich's daughter misrepresented Reich in that documentary. Reich didn't claim that "better orgasms" eliminated neuroses, he claimed that surrendering completely to the pleasurable sensations of orgasm and the rhythmic muscular contractions at the climax of loving sex eliminated neuroses (though it's true this is definitely 'better'). And, for that to happen all sexual perversions would have to first be eliminated -- sadism, masochism, guilt, etc. And, I dunno whether Reich lost his mind at the end of his life with the UFO stuff. To be fair, he was persecuted and kicked out of so many countries and societies for his work it wouldn't surprise me at all if he did start to lose it at the very end. I'll watch the rest of the doc later, it looks good.

It seems that Huxley's vision of a pacified entertainment state is being realized with technology. Also, it seems like a decline in our ability to concentrate and manage attention is correlated with technology. Though, there are also numerous boons to technology: ease of communication, access to information, alternative energy sources, etc. There's so much information available now and the world is so complex that both a pessimistic and optimistic perspective can be supported. Truly, I see no way to 'objectively' decide which will pan out. Then, pragmatically, an optimistic perspective is the preferable choice from an individual perspective.

EDIT:
Oh, yeah and Orwell's vision is also being realized. Surveillance state, restriction of language, etc. Though, the situation we live in wasn't captured neatly by Orwell or Huxley. Reality is more complex than both.

I watched The Century Of The Self maybe 5 years ago and put out there as an after thought. It's probably overly sensationalist, and Adam Curtis style as a way of sounding very convincing and percuting but I don't know how much of it is accurate. I guess we should see it more as "food for thoughts", and one vision of one subset of reality.

An aspect of the ease of communication that I became more aware of in recent years is how people expect you to stay in touch with them because you can. I had to develop the habits of no answering the phone, only calling back one or two days later, doing the same with e-mail and text message, just to lower expectations. And when I travel abroad, I try to cut communication entirely. Still, I feel the social pressure to do otherwise.

RE: Technological advances and their implications
Answer
1/12/15 10:40 AM as a reply to Simon T..
Im just throwing this in here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMH5NOdM5sg

Alain de Botton speaking about "How to Live Wisely in the Digital Age". Machines does not help us with life, we new machines that helps us live life, with our marriages, etc. Interesting thoughts.

Also robots are the future. Selfdriving cars, trains, trucks, busses. Automatic food production and what not. Computers building stuff for us, make choices etc. The only thing we need to handle is the economic bases for the society. Should be easy enough.