Amanda Duncan - Manifesto

The Manifesto, according to Me

Technology should preserve history by digitizing it, but not at the expense of the physical copy.

I am a bit of a traditionalist in this sense. I am particularly attached to books, CDs, vinyl records; there is something about the physicality of it that I really like. Even though the things that they contain are intangible things, like ideas and sounds, I still like being able to see the physical manifestations of the objects (ie. If I scratch a record, I can be sure that the record will skip. Similarly, if I cross something out on a page, I will not be able to ever undo that.) It is the permanence that I think I like the most of it.

Paradoxically, technology enables us to preserve our history, but I think that it is becoming easier than ever for us to risk losing our collective knowledge. Google Books, for example, makes it really easy for us to access books that we might not have at our local library. Websites like JSTOR make knowledge proliferation simple. But with this, is also the chance that we could lose all of our knowledge, or the knowledge will be mislabeled, as is the case raised in The trouble with Google Books Since we are placing more emphasis on the electronic copy, I think that it is possible that the hard copy will no longer be produced. This becomes a problem because microchips are very fragile and information loss is a very real possibility. I think that it is irresponsible to place so much faith on something that can be destroyed so easily.

Technology should make it easier to educate children, not dumb them down.

One of the complaints that scholars/social commentators have made about my generation is that with the increased technology and ease of access, Americans between the ages of 15-24 have become the The Dumbest Generation. While I take offense to the notion that I am just some dumb 20-something, I do agree that we should be sure that technology is contributing to collective intelligence, and not just on turning us into dumb robots.

This was something that I brought up in my considered response. It seems like—more and more—children are expected to use their imagination less and less. When I was a child, you could stick me out in the woods and I would create my own little world with my friends. I loved to build and create. But some of the toys that these children are playing with completely remove all of the thought process by requiring very little from the children. One of the hottest toys for kids these days is the leapfrog reader. This reader essentially takes reading and turns it into a pointing exercise where the kid only has to point and the reader will say the word for them. It is removing children—and parents—accountability for their education.

The internet should be accessible and capable of allowing access to any website.

The movement to restrict access to certain websites seems to go against the principles of the openness of the internet. I can understand the dangers that censorship poses and in principle, I am opposed to it. On the other hand, I do like that ISPs offer parents the option to turn on Parental Control options for their children. There are things out there that children do not need to see. I am quite sure that I have never used Viagra, nor have I ever looked for “hot, sexy babes who are ready to hook up” but those are things that I see in ads on my computer all the time. Kids don’t need to see that.

With that said, however, the idea that an ISP would charge its subscribers an additional fee to access certain websites is utterly wrong. The founding principles of the internet were that it should be open and accessible. But in trying to prevent people from accessing information, the ISPs would be guilty of willfully preventing people from accessing information that they would like to have access too. This might not be much of a problem in a well populated area where there were several ISP providers who would compete, but this seems like it would be much more problematic in areas where there would not be much competition.
Ironically, Europeans do not seem to care all that much about net neutrality, and they seem to be getting on alright without it.

The Internet community should prevent trolling in comment sections on web pages by requiring login information.

This is similar to the net neutrality issue in the sense that I think that anyone should be able to post anything online without fearing penalty for thinking their mind. But what has increasingly become commonplace is the The Art of Trolling. Instead of contributing positively to the internet discussion, trolling is, more often than not, aimed at hurting someone. Frequently, these posters are anonymous, and this makes it hard to hold them accountable for their actions. These people are certainly taking advantage of the system of anonymity that the computer screen offers.

If websites required commentators to provide an email address and a name, I think that we would see a lot less trolling, since it would be more time consuming to post. Instead of just a flippant, clever remark that can be typed and sent, login information would make someone stop and think about whether or not this was something that they really wanted to say. Of course, there will always be jerks who will post no matter what, but I think that this would make the majority of them think twice before posting.

Biomedical technology should not be used to transform us into computer-human hybrids

One of the main premises of Ray’s book is that in the very near future, we will be able to enhance our intelligence by merging with technology and actually incorporating little nanobots into our biological system. These robots could replace cells, essentially halting the aging process; enhance our memory and computing speeds; and allow us to become these super human hybrids. This is unnatural and wrong. While one could argue that we are already hybrids, to an extent (ie. Medicine, hip replacement) this is not an entirely accurate model. In these cases, we are introducing something to our bodies and letting our cells react to them. In Ray’s argument, the relationship is switched, and when the computers are introduced to the body, it is them who are doing the reacting. They would be the ones who will act when they encounter a “faulty” neuron or dead cell that needs to be disposed of.

The biggest problem that I find with this theory is that it is ridiculously farfetched and based off of wishful thinking at best and faulty logic at worst. Sure, machines may exceed our imaginations. But it does not logically follow that the next step will be shooting up with robots. It just doesn’t make sense.
Kurzweil, Ray. The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. New York: Viking, 2005. Print.

We should not assume that technology will solve all of our problems in the future.

Ray Kurzweil seems to harbor many assumptions about what technology will be capable of in the future. He argues that very soon, we will achieve the singularity and we will be able to surpass our own limited intelligence by merging with technology. After this occurs, technology will be able to improve itself and it will no longer be limited by traditional, conventional human wisdom. With this, he claims, will come tremendous potential to create anything that we want. Just like in Star Trek, we will be able to have Computer produce anything we want. Besides the fact that this goes against all the laws of physics, I think that this is just ludicrous, not to mention irresponsible.

I think that this kind of thinking is dangerous because it completely absolves people from current responsibilities. It is easy to say, “Sure, let’s pollute the environment unnecessarily because in the future, we will have giant machines to fix it.” Because we have no assurances that this will happen, it is absurd to think that we should go ahead and wait for something that might happen. I think that it is really dangerous for an entire society to adopt this laizze-faire attitude when your best guess is based entirely on speculation.

Kurzweil, Ray. The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. New York: Viking, 2005. Print.