Saritha Prabhu is one of my favorite columnists. She sums up much of what I felt after seeing the thought provoking film, “Her,” this week…
I’m all for technology and the digital age, but is too much happening too fast?
Sometimes, it does seem that technology is moving at warp speed. Each time I turn around, I read about Google cars, Google Glass, “smart” contact lenses, “smart” houses, “intelligent” robots and more.
As much as technology enhances my life, I admit I have mixed reactions to all this: I’m a little threatened by the pace of change more than anything.
I guess I also worry that in about five years this paper will hire a robot to write my column.
But seriously, part of the problem is that every new advance is heralded as “progress,” something to be automatically embraced and adapted to.
And adapt we will, but maybe we should also ask some questions.
During Christmas break, I saw the movie “Her” with my older son, a college freshman. It’s set in the future, about a man who falls in love with his artificial-intelligence-imbued operating system.
Strangely, the movie didn’t seem that strange, and seemed somewhat plausible. Afterward, I said to my son, “Remember this moment and this conversation. When you’re a middle-aged man and I’m an old woman, the world will be completely unrecognizable from now, and you’ll remember your childhood as a digitally primitive time.”
What also led to today’s column were the different things I’ve been reading recently. I read that Jeff Bezos of Amazon wants to deliver stuff to our doorstep via drones, and that kids born in 2014 will be the most technologically dependent — and the heaviest — generation ever (surely there’s a correlation).
I read that 3-year-olds were asking for iPad minis and iTunes gift cards this past Christmas.
I also read something in The New York Times that gave me the creeps: a rather futuristic-sounding scenario of cyber-intimacy between interested parties on the Internet using smartphones. “We’re experiencing an unparalleled technological revolution, and we’re learning that social desire feeds technological change,” said a pioneer in the field.
A report titled “The Future of Relationships” suggests that advances in augmented intelligence mean that people will “get attached to and develop real relationships with their hardware and software.”
“If you fast-forward five to 10 years,” says one trend-forecaster, “it’s fascinating to think about what teenagers might constitute as intimate relationships, and how relationships will be radically different.”
See what I mean about the pace of change?
Meanwhile, studies are also showing how our brains are being rewired by technology: how we are better multitaskers now, but also more distracted and fidgety, less analytical and contemplative.
What should we make of it all?
I realize I probably sound like one of the quintessential grumblers of past eras, the ones who hated the telephone, television and the rest.
One thing to remember, of course, is that technology has changed our lives mostly for the better. But the key difference between the past and now is this: The advances happening now are exponential changes.
We seem to be at the beginning of a time when almost everything is being reconfigured — the way we live, work, play, love, make war, everything.
I worry that we are losing some essence of ourselves in some important ways, and that we may even have lost the ability to reflect on what we’re losing, because, well, with all the hyper-connectivity, who has time to reflect anymore?
I worry that our smartphones are making us stupid, and that while we are racing to make robots more human, we may be losing some of our humanity.
Maybe some of this makes some sense. Or maybe I’m just a cranky naysayer.
Copyright 2014, The Tennessean. Saritha Prabhu of Clarksville is a columnist for The Tennessean.