Caitlin Fernandez: Manifesto

1. Technologies should help humans and not replace them beyond a reasonable extent.
Many people have a problem with technology when it seems that it will be replacing us. I personally do not believe that it can do such a thing. Sure, you can have computer-generated psychologists online that a person can talk to instead of going to an actual psychologist or counselor, but psychologists are needed to help program the tool to say the correct things, pick up on the correct red flags, and to actually help people. I also wonder what the online psychologist says if the person hits too many suicidal red flags, because my guess would be that it would tell them to seek a professional, indicating that humans are still needed in this situation. Technology should make everything easier and simpler for people. It should streamline, but it should not replace. In terms of doctors, the idea of WebMD comes up. I am guilty of turning to the Symptom Checker every time I have more than a headache, but I do not trust it over the advice of an actual doctor because the internet cannot replace the individual diagnosis of a trained professional who can physically see and interpret my symptoms accurately. I use WebMD mostly to verify that I do not have certain illnesses, such as when I had what was diagnosed (by a doctor) as bronchitis for so long that I started panicking and thinking it had progressed to pneumonia. I went on WebMD and typed in my symptoms, and the website told me that I had a cold, not pneumonia. This was later verified by my doctor. The technology gave me peace of mind, but if the doctor had told me I had pneumonia I would obviously have believed her over WebMD. I believe this statement should be adopted because technology cannot presently replace humans effectively. It should be included in the manifesto because we as a people seem to be approaching the point where it is sometimes possible to replace humans with technologies (such as the cashier being replaced by the machine) but in certain instances such as the case of the doctor, it can go too far.

2. Humans should support the advancement of technology so long as it does not cause more harm than good.
As discussed in Kelly’s Alone Together, there are several groups (such as the Amish) who do not use technology to its full potential. They pick and choose which items they can use as a culture, and are about ten years behind. While this seems to work for them, it does not support the advancement of technology overall. The more people that use the technology, the more ideas they have about it. They are able to share their opinions on discussion boards and with other consumers and retailers, which often allows them to get back to the designers and manufacturers. This allows the technology to grow and improve at a rapid pace. Those who do not support the advancement of technology will get left behind and are no longer valuable to the general marketplace because they do not use the technologies that the rest of the public does. However, in some cases, technologies may cause more harm than good and should no longer be used or supported. For example, cell phones allow people to text and play games and become distracted while driving, which can cause harm. At the same time, they allow people to contact the police when they need help, look up important information, and stay connected. At this time, cell phones do not cause more harm than good, so they should remain in use. If it is eventually proven that cell phones actually do cause cancer or this cancer starts advancing earlier on in cell phone use, that may be a time to reconsider the balance of bad and good regarding cell phone use. I adopted this policy because as I am job hunting, I am finding that it is more and more clear that employers want employees to be fully up on the latest technologies. If others adopt this same idea, then everyone will be on an equal playing field in the market-place, which is not necessarily a good thing. This statement should be included in the manifesto because we are all graduating seniors so this idea is important to keep in mind in the future.

3. We should use technology and digital media to our full advantage but be wary of agendas and goals that may not make these technologies reliable.
An interesting thought on this idea came up when we were discussing it in class in terms of the shooting in Christiansburg the other day. Three minutes before the shooting, Neil McInnis allegedly posted a message on 4chan. The part that I found most interesting is that he stated “the news never gets it right.” This was especially interesting to me during our class discussion today, when people were defending the news taking additional time to check facts. However, he seems to be incorrect. All the reports I have heard based on this shooting line up exactly with what he allegedly posted about it. After this day and all the information that was being spewed at me by different sources, I have to say I agree that I would rather hear too much information and have some of it be incorrect than not hear anything at all. I do think it is my responsibility to sift through what I have heard and make an educated guess as to what is true. I learned while I was in Target waiting to hear more information moment after the shooting that all I wanted was to know more. I wanted to know where exactly it took place, how many people were hurt, if anyone was killed, if it was still going on, and anything else they could tell me. I knew it would not all necessarily be correct, but that did not stop me from wishing the news outlets would produce more information and faster than they already were. It seemed that everyone was regurgitating the same quotes and facts on each new website I checked, and all I wanted was something that I had not heard before, whether it was true or not. I have adopted this policy based on the aforementioned experience. If others adopt this policy of not believing everything you see or read, the world would be better consumers and less gullible overall. It should be considered for the manifesto because as more and more news is presented online, it is harder to decipher what is true from what is not.

4. We should strive to share as much information with each other as possible.
I happened to be at the mall with my boyfriend at the time of the shooting in Christiansburg the other day. We were in Belk, and he was about to go into the fitting room to try some clothes on when a woman walked up to us and quietly said “they’re evacuating the mall – there’s been a shooting” and walked away and continued shopping. We decided that she was crazy, because why would she continue shopping if she actually believed there was shooter loose in the mall. We stood there unsure of what to do for a moment when someone came on the intercom and said that the mall was being evacuated and that all employees and customers must leave immediately. It also said not to go through the mall. Once there was this greater sharing of knowledge, it seemed much more believable since the source was not one single person whose judgment was questionable. We ran out to my car and left the mall immediately. I went on Facebook on my phone and posted on my sorority’s Facebook page not to go to the mall because we were just evacuated because of a shooting. Soon, other sisters who had also been at the mall at the time posted the information they knew in conjunction with what information I knew. The more people posted, the more accurate we seemed to get to the truth until news reports finally came out and explained exactly what happened. This reinforces Weinberger’s notion of the shared network of ideas in Too Big to Know. I have adopted this policy because I am a firm believer in the knowledge in numbers. If others adopt this policy and take full advantage of the knowledge and information those around them have to offer, we will be a smarter collective group. This should be considered for the manifesto because the class project as a whole seems to be an experiment in the effectiveness of this idea.

5. We should not use technologies to prolong life beyond a reasonable point.
One of Sherry Turkle’s largest points in Alone Together was the importance and extent of our reliance on technology. In class, we have discussed artificial legs and laser eye surgery multiple times, and what this means for us as humans or cyborgs. The video of Neil Harbisson that featured his ability to hear color further emphasized the idea of us becoming more and more robotic. I do not have a problem with any of these technologies; in fact I think they are great. The problem I have is when life is prolonged beyond a certain point. For example, hospitals use ventilators for patients who can no longer breathe on their own. This is often helpful in allowing patients to receive oxygen while other problems are fixed and healed, as long as they will be able to breathe on their own again soon. However, there are those in a comatose state beyond a certain amount of time that are only being kept alive on ventilators. The technology is being used in this case to prolong the inevitable – it is clear that the patient is not able to come back and live, but the family is not able to give up on them because they are not fully dead yet. They prolong this terrible process by keeping them alive artificially so they look like they are simply asleep, when in reality as soon as the machine is unplugged they can no longer breathe. I think this is beyond that point. We should use technologies to keep ourselves healthy and happy as much as possible, but if we are literally on death’s doorstep, it is time to let go and move forward. I adopted this policy because I do not wish to have my death prolonged. If others adopt this policy their families will save thousands of dollars in hospital bills not to mentions the days, weeks, or months of prolonged waiting and pain before the inevitable must occur. This should be included in the manifesto because with the advancement of technology, a line must be drawn before the world becomes overpopulated by those unwilling to let go of their lives when the time comes.

6. Technologies that cause direct harm should be closely regulated and restricted.
Certain technologies are inherently dangerous. Beginning with the simple sharp rock, and progressing on to knives, swords, guns, and all other weapons, these items were created with the intent of harm be it to another human or to an animal. These technologies may be created with good intent, such as guns being created to defend ones country if it is to fall under attack. However, there will always be people that will abuse these technologies and use them to cause harm to others, such as Seung-Hui Cho when he picked up a gun and killed 32 innocent people. I will not discuss whether I am for or against gun control, but I do think whatever the decision is, it needs to be monitored. I realize this is a lofty goal as weapons can easily be purchased on the black market, but I think that all people who purchase guns need to undergo a psychological evaluation of some sort so that their mental state is officially evaluated before they make such a potentially dangerous purchase. I also believe that they should have to check in every few months at first, then every year to confirm that their condition is still stable and they are still able to be trusted with such a dangerous weapon. I do realize this is not practical for all weapons (such as rocks and knives) but the ones that are capable of creating mass harm need to be watched more closely in order to prevent more tragedies such as the ones at Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Columbine. I adopted this policy in wake of the memorial, shooting in Christiansburg, and the Boston Marathon bombings all occurring in the past few days. If others also adopt this policy, hopefully the world will become a safer place. This should be included in the manifesto because it is directly relevant to our lives today.