Essay / February 2019 / Walter Proulx

Technology Interaction Era #2

Written by Walter Proulx

Finally, Oprah Winfrey and the Chinese government have something in common: they’re letting technology help them with everyday tasks. According to the Los Angeles Times, Oprah bought a smart home recently that will melt snow off her driveway for her.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government have recently implemented a Social Credit System that will automatically report when citizens are breaking traffic laws. Both of these human tasks are now being automated with the use of technology.

Within the last decade, there has been a very interesting shift with how humans interact with technology. Before, humans had to give inputs to a machine which would give predictable outcomes. Now, a machine is trying to guess how it can assist you. Is this a significant change? Considering that the world is watching in horror as China sets up a system that can blacklist its own citizens, it appears there is something very significant about this distinction.

Lots of different media platforms have already tried to predict the apocalyptic future of technology. The movie Terminator predicts robots with destroy the world, the TV series Black Mirror has shown numerous ways of how technology can destroy a person, and even video games like Detroit show altered realities where machines somehow break the bounds of their programming and end up making moral decisions. It’s all a very scary future that now doesn’t seem too distant.

Five years ago it wasn’t common to have a personal computer assistant, yet now there are more than 100 million Alexa devices around the world according to The Verge. Humanity within the past decade went from a society that controlled how they interacted with technology to a society that is assisted by technology. For example, people used to wear watches and would have to look down to notice that they were fifteen minutes late for their meeting. Now, their watches buzz to let them know their meeting is in fifteen.

When humanity starts losing its ability to choose to interact with technology, it becomes very scary from an emotional and moral standpoint. The reason why China’s Social Credit System—which can now stop a person from using public transportation—is so scary is because there was a swap from human interactions to interactions with technology. Rather than a police officer writing a ticket for speeding, a computer just takes note for the officer to confirm. Skipping the step of human interaction is terrifying as it has such potential to do great and terrible things.

Fearing China’s new Social Credit System is a completely normal and warranted reaction. People should be questioning why we are taking another step in this direction. This transition of technological interaction is an important transition that could have huge implications. The United States is following a similar path with Google and Facebook offering services in return of your geolocation and interests. Every country that is using technology at such a high level is moving towards China’s Social Credit System. It is up to the citizens to decide how they want this interaction to occur.

 

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