Mankind is being left behind by technology made for its benefit
Yesterday I attended a webinar on the effects of advances in technology on the transportation industry.
While it was a nostalgic glimpse of vintage planes, trains and automobiles it was also a poignant reminder that in the technology sector nothing lasts for ever. In fact, the sole reason the tech industry exists is to out-do and eradicate all that has come before it as swiftly as possible.
This raises an interesting point because, although technology is ostensibly designed to “benefit mankind”, we are quickly being left behind by our own creations.
How can this be?
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that machines do not suffer the angst of letting go.
If, for example, you ask an adult to learn a new language their brain initially resists even when the person does want to learn. They need time to adapt – to familiarise themselves with endless lists of vocabulary, unfamiliar verbal sounds, illogical idioms and patterns of speech.
In the process of attempting to learn they invariably suffer the frustration of being at a loss for words, and even resort to employing ineffective and evasive tactics like waving their hands about, substituting English words in the middle of a sentence, or (my favourite) imagining that if they speak English in an exceedingly slow and exaggerated manner that they will be miraculously understood by a person who knows not one word of this language.
Machines on the other hand do none of this.
Yes, their intellect is limited by their programming and their containment (Alexa can read you a recipe but she’s never going to sprout arms and bake you a cake, let alone do the washing up), but this is its only limitation. Load a new programme, a new data set, or a new access key and machines embrace and employ all that you give them instantly.
Ironically, the human architects of all this are designing and implementing a digital world unencumbered by any of the classic human limitations such as the time required to adapt to changes or learn new things, or the reluctance to let go of all things familiar in favour of anything new, or the anguish of making decisions, or even the ethical dilemma of choosing between right and wrong.
And the inconvenient truth here is that machines experience none of this because humans designed them to operate this way.
One might easily argue that this is much more efficient and will allow civilisation to advance at a much more rapid pace, but the real question is how will being fully immersed in this unfeeling tech-driven world impact the humans that live in it?
Yes, smartphones and microwaves and self-driving cars are convenient and fun, but these things are the tip of the iceberg. If we can’t teach our technology to “feel” the consequences of its actions, how will we ever be sure that humanity is being properly served and how will we discourage future humans from becoming more like them?
Robin Trimingham is the chief operating officer of The Olderhood Group Ltd and a virtual presenter, journalist, podcaster and thought leader in the fields of life transition and change management. Connect with Robin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/olderhoodgroup1/ or firstname.lastname@example.org