Brooks Tiffany | Manifesto

1. We should never completely switch from analog to digital.

All the technology in the world seems to be heading in the digital direction. It’s not unthinkable that one day in our lifetimes, everything will be digital and analog will be ancient history. I feel that relying completely on digital technology is putting all of our race’s eggs in one basket. We are quickly becoming dependent on digital technology, so much so that, in some cases, we are reduced to a helpless state without it. Should the day come when our digital pets turn against us or are used against us, a well-established analog back-up system would prove invaluable. The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series effectively demonstrates one such scenario in which the entire human race is annihilated through a cyber-attack of our digital technologies – the only survivor is the series titled ship, Battlestar Galactica, which is an analog, non-networked ship.

There is much truth in fiction but perhaps a more contemporary example lies with the U.S. Army, where many combat teams insist that they are over-reliant on digital technology, such as GPS. The U.S. Army is not completely ignorant of this danger, however, as they still issue “old-fashioned, never-fail compasses to troops in the field on the off chance that something goes awry with those signals form the ether” (McNamee, Britannica.com). The fact that the most technologically advanced and highly trained force in the world has taken this into consideration means we should too. We as a race, should be doing more to ensure we can survive without digital technology, and that means remaining familiar with the “old-fashioned” analog ways

Sources
GPS and the Dangers of Over-reliance on Technology
Cylons and Cyber-warfare: How do we fight without computers?

2. We should never take away a person's choice to adopt or reject a new technology.

By this I mean that we should never force people to adopt new technologies in order to survive. We are now toeing this line as conducting day-to-day business is becoming increasingly difficult for those who do not own a computer or a smartphone. The rapid advancement and adoption of new technologies is forcing people into a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario where corporations are dictating what kind of technology you need to conduct business, watch television, browse the internet. Soon there won’t be any alternative and many of us will have no choice but to “play their game”. There should never be a day when you have to have a smart phone to get a job. There should never be a day when you have to have an email account to go shopping. There should never be a day when you have to purchase the latest DirecTV package with a HDDVR for your living room and NFL Sunday Ticket just to gain access to your local stations.

Probably one of the most notable cases of forced technological adoption in recent memory is when the United States Congress “mandated that after February 17, 2009 television stations across the country had to transmit only in digital signals, and could no longer transmit analog signals” (fcc.gov). This affected about 20% of the U.S. population (ABC News) who were unprepared for the digital switch for whatever reason (economic etc). The U.S. government did try to soften the financial blow by offering coupons those who were supposed to need them but those funds quickly dried up. The bottom line is, people should never be forced to adopt a new technology (no matter how good the benefits are sworn to be), especially one that will put a financial strain on them and I’ve already discussed the dangers of going all digital above, which is another reason not to force such switches.

Sources
Left in the Dark: Digital TV Transition Out of Funds
DTV.GOV: DTV Enforcement

3. We should not allow "artificial creativity" to replace humans as evaluators and/or creators of the arts without fair warning.

I’m sure computers will be quite efficient at grinding up essays and spitting them out; they’ll be efficient at whipping together symphonic masterpieces (or top 20 pop songs that will make you throw up in your mouth a little bit); and they’ll be able to assimilate all of da Vinci’s, Picasso’s, and Van Goh’s heavenly pieces into their Borg-like algorithms and assemble new works of art – resistance is futile. Once we allow “artificial creativity” to surreptitiously infiltrate our ranks and compete against our human brethren for teaching positions, spots on the billboard 100, and spaces in the art gallery – the arts as we know them will begin to die. However, resistance really isn’t futile in this case, in fact, it’s familiar: enter the ACA warning label – allow me to explain.

What I’m specifically suggesting as a course of action, is to force companies to put warning labels on artificially created art – let’s call it ACA – so that consumers can tell them apart and choose which one they’d rather go with. Kind of like the whole organic vs. GMO thing or, if you’re feeling really malicious towards ACA, a cancer warning on a pack of cigarettes. You see, I don’t think we should suppress creativity of any kind, even the artificial kind, rather we should not allow it to sneakily compete against humans so that corporations can save a buck and maximize profits; before we know it, over half of what we’re reading, looking at, or listening to will be made by bots – thus my ACA warning labels.

Sure, I might have an ACA piece on my wall as a novelty (or a reminder) and I might even enjoy a fabricated song every once in a while, but what I will not do is allow ACA to hollow out the art and humanities quietly. I think that in the near future, we will place high value on arts made by human minds, hands, and hearts because we’ll know deep down that it’s the last thing we really have to be good at.

Sources
Computational Creativity

4. We should prevent the singularity.

The singularity is Pandora’s Box 2.0 and we should fear opening it. At the point of the singularity we will have officially handed the keys over to our technological counterparts (A.I.s, robots, etc.) We will then find ourselves completely at the mercy of technology as it will begin to advance itself at an exponential rate far beyond our understanding of it, and consequently beyond our power to do anything to stop it. Should we just let the singularity rip and hope that our new superiors are nice to us? I don’t think so.

I can envision too many doomsday/bleak scenarios for the human race as a result of the singularity. Some of those scenarios include our complete extinction (they won’t need us), our enslavement (they do need us but not in a way we would like), our assimilation (we are absorbed/transferred – complete transhumanism), or we might just be so antiquated after the singularity that our existence will be trivial and the A.I.s will simply ignore us as we wander about without any purpose.

To ensure that there is absolutely no chance of this happening we should keep tight control on technology, especially A.I. is advanced. At no point should we allow the A.I.s to roam freely or self replicate without close supervision. In other words, we should keep our hand directly over the kill switch. We should pace technological advancement so that it never moves faster than our understanding of it. What’s the big rush? We are making leaps in advancement right now and will continue to keep advancing so I see no need for the singularity to occur – it’s not worth the risk.

Sources
Top Ten Reasons We Should Fear the Singularity
Why the Future Doesn't Need Us

5. We should never shape ourselves to accommodate technology, rather it should always be shaped to accommodate us.

Have you ever looked at a person that had a dog on a leash and wondered who was walking who? Yeah, that’s us and technology.

In Present Shock, Rushkoff proposes that “instead of attempting to retrain the body to match the artificial rhythms of our digital technologies and their artifacts, we can instead use our digital technologies to reschedule our lives in a manner consistent with our physiology,” (93) and I couldn’t agree more. Rushkoff goes on to offer up scenarios where workers are encouraged to spend their entire days and nights working (living?) at Google or Facebook or how theories have been developed that attempt to explain how the body can run without full night’s sleep if you power nap every 4 hours.

The point is that humans now think of themselves and measure their success against robots, thus we begin to characterize ourselves as such. We think we need to “switch on” in the morning and “switch off” at night with less and less “charging” in between. We think that we should be 100% focused without breaks all day. We think we should be able to do a thousand things at once. And all of this because we perceive the cold efficiency of robots as superior, we view them as the model to follow, we think we need to serve our technologies hand and foot.

Well, I’m here to back up Rushkoff and say it should be the other way around. Nature designed us a certain way – in a way that is far from the robotic, mindless automatons that we strive to be. Trying to force ourselves onto the schedules of increasing amounts of technology is only making our lives worse! It should be the other way around: we should be spending more time figuring out how WE operate, what OUR rhythms are, and what schedules work best for US – then we should use all those technologies to optimize our patterns and serve us.

Sources
Present Shock - Douglas Rushkoff

6. We should never allow technology to replace more than 50% of personal interactions.

By this, I mean that we should not allow technologies to place a barrier between us and another human being in more than half of our interactions on a daily basis. Think about it – going back to (hand written letters? I’ll let those slide because they possess a certain level of intimacy that I find rewarding). Lets start with the telegraph; technology has slowly been seeping into every realm of communication and interaction and recently that trend has become more like flooding. We use telephones to call and text; we use Facebook to hangout; we are increasingly conducting business meetings, consultations, and classes online. When I take all of that and more into consideration, I think we may have already passed this 50% threshold, and if so, perhaps we should take a step back and draw some lines in the sand.

I worry that one day we will end up like the characters in E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” where we will never leave our little comfy eggs of a home. Soon, we may not have to leave our houses to shop for food, go to the doctor, or visit family. The increasing lack of personal interaction is robbing people, especially the younger generations, of social maturity – being able to read peoples’ faces, pick up on body language or verbal cues, and straight up hold a conversation are becoming very real problems. The technologies placed between us are eating away at our humanity. Technology is beneficial in many cases when it comes to interactions but I feel that it should be used in moderation – thus my 50% mark. I feel that 50% is the breaking point at which “technology replacing personal interaction” becomes unhealthy and we begin to experience what I would like to call “social atrophy”.

Stay with me – if you add up all the personal social interactions in your day (I think this includes simply smiling at somebody and acknowledging them in person) and they end up being less than your number of technological interactions with another person (emails, texts, calls) then you begin to experience social atrophy. Granted, there are different degrees of “social atrophy” caused by technology – a video chat is more personable than a phone call, a phone call is more personable than a text – but for simplicity's sake I’m lumping them together for now. Should we decide to move forward with this we can begin to assign values to certain technologies – a “social atrophy rating,” if you will.

Sources
The Machine Stops - E.M. Forster
Technology Replacing Human Interaction at What Cost?