Week 4 – Are we master or are we slaves? That is the question.

We have dedicated our lives to modern technology. Not in the sense that we want the best of both hard and software, but we put our personal information, our very own thoughts into our devices. Our lives, appointments, photos and videos are recorded, as if these technology is another mind (and to us, they seem so complex that we do see them as another mind), and perhaps we have become slaves to their very beck and call. Do we not have the compulsion to click every facebook notification or check every unread email that comes our way?

Mari Velonaki delivered a very interesting lecture this week, whose work explores human’s emotional and physical response to technology. For example in her work ‘Fishbird’, the audience is encouraged to treat the wheelchairs with respect as they are fully autonomous and will give various emotional response according to the environment, as if they have a mind of their own. Yet, these wheelchairs are fully programmed to respond in a certain manner, and nothing is as “autonomous” as they seem. The emotional response garnered from the interaction from her installation however, is what is truly interesting. Technology is so ingrained in our culture, and as Don Ihde says “there is no human cultures which are pre-technological.” (Don Ihde, 1993)

This brings me to a new point – are we enslaved by technology? Most science fiction author and artists certainly thinks so, with movies such as I, Robot (Alex Proyas, 2004) and the core plot of the fourth book in the Pendragon series The Reality Bug by DJ Machale rotating around humans being basically slaves of the very technology they invented.

Then again, these are fictional situations (despite depicting very real fears), one of the best way to understand this tension between humans and technology is to see the development of the internet in the last decade:

As this simple infographic shows, our usage (and subsequent reliance) of the internet has exponentially increased through the last 10 years. There are a lot more information readily available on the internet and the speed and we can achieve a lot of goals more effectively. However, we also spend more time (presently 4 hours a day, but doing a quick informal survey finds my peers (myself included) spending way more) on the internet and reliant on it for entertainment and most importantly, knowledge. Libraries are pretty much obsolete for books because there is really no reason to borrow a physical book and look for information when you can find the same thing online and with all the information you want highlighted.

This is one of the major tension between humans and technology I noticed through, not only this week’s tutorial, but the whole semester, and I wish to explore further. This over reliance on technology (especially the internet) to provide us with entertainment and knowledge is a problem, but as Jane McGonigal (as I referred to her TED talk last week) stated, technology use, especially gaming, can “save the world”.

Like Don Ihde said, there is no human race if there aren’t technology, our very species’ definition is the ability to use tools. It will be very interesting to see where this notion takes me, this tug-o-war between the positive effect (efficiency, more knowledge, and in terms of gaming, better problem solving capability) and negative (over reliance, ‘waste’ of time, transform all destination space into circulation space).

Reference:

BestEdSites.com The Internet A Decade Later, <http://www.bestedsites.com/the-internet-a-decade-later/>.

Ihde, D. 1993, ‘Technology’, Philosphy of Technology, Paragon House, New York, pp. 47-66.

Locutus 2007, We are masters of technology. Or are we slaves? viewed 31/8 2012, <http://it.toolbox.com/blogs/locutus/we-are-masters-of-technology-or-are-we-slaves-16119>.

Machale, D.J. 2003, The Reality Bug, Aladdin, New York.

i, Robot 2004, Film, 20th Century Fox, California.

Velonaki, M. 2003-2009, Fish-Bird Circle B – Movement C, .

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