Curtis Stanford: Manifesto

Technology should be viewed as a tool and should never hold dominion over us.

This is in response to Tim Weidman’s discussion of Kelly’s, What Technology Wants. He states, “Modern society would not remember how to operate without many of the technological systems that have become integral parts of everyday life. ‘Simply the fact that a machine is able to perform a task often becomes sufficient reason to have it do the task,’ (194). This is the mindset that is leading to our reliance on technology, and if it continues, we will find ourselves becoming the inferior ‘species.’”

It’s also in response to what Kelly writes. “Just as the evolutionary tree of Sapiens branched off from its animal precursors long ago, the technium now branches off from its precursor, the mind of the human animal” (49).

While there is a technical necessity for many of the technologies we employ today, it is important to remember that as they have yet to become sentient beings and therefore are unable to be treated immorally or unjustly, they should be regarded as tools to further serve our sovereignty and responsibility over this planet. To place the reigns in technology’s control would be to relinquish our superiority and to leave our fate in the hands of devices incapable of empathy, compassion, ethics, or morality. While we must allow certain technologies to operate unhindered to ensure our survival and comfort, it is important that we understand and are capable of micro managing them when necessary.

As technology becomes more advanced and the line between biological and machine, consciousness and computation is further blurred, it will be important to have this normative statement secured deep within our psyche so that we don’t capriciously or apathetically allow for a future in which decisions are no longer ours to make.

All new technologies ought to have a function that advances or strengthens community bonds.

This is in response Keith Pillow’s discussion on the weakening of modern communities. He says, “Technology, however, has contributed to the weakening of communities. This applies to familial communities as well as communities in the public sense. As Kelly examines, technology provides a net gain in freedom and choices (207).”

I think at this point in human history we are well beyond individualism and extremism. While our society isn’t necessarily socialist, and while we don’t all need to be extroverts in a social sense, we have a responsibility to each other to at the very least not negatively interfere with our neighbors’ justly earned and lawful way of life. That is to say, we shouldn’t blast music from our high-end speakers unless at a place where people sought to hear music just as we shouldn’t mine for uranium except for in a controlled and distant environment. We shouldn’t have our heads in our phones at the risk of jostling someone just as we hope that our pilots and their instruments will keep their eyes on the sky.

While simply respecting the comfort and well being of our fellow man is fine for this normative statement, I would hope that for the average person, we would use our consumer technologies to improve our community ties. Most devices are already geared around social networking. They may at a glance appear to draw away from the immediacy of community and family, but in truth they are allowing massive online communities to form (i.e. facebook, twitter, reddit, and so on). Unfortunately, as of now, for the most part, these communities are trapped within our screens and don’t meet through other forums as often as they should. I think as heads-up technology become more prevalent, there will be a trend back toward physical community involvement and an adoption of communities as a whole into the online arena. I think if we continue to encourage interconnectivity between the physical and the virtual then our communities will become stronger, our more membership choices will increase, and we’ll still have an overlying sense of unity. We might hope to one day stop excavating and begin renovating Babel.

Technology should be integrated wholly into our daily lives.

This is in response to Victoria Zigaldo discussing the value of using technology. She wrote, “Personally, I supplement nearly every activity with technology. I work remotely from home while I am in school, and therefore make a living for myself from my time spent using technology. I also, as a Professional Writing major, do nearly all of my schoolwork using technology. Therefore, both my college education and career are achieved from the time I spend sitting on my laptop. The combination of these two critical parts of my life in a technological sphere have, however, greatly altered my perception of what it means to be productive. If I go one full day with out logging in and working on my computer, I feel as though that time was wasted. I could accomplish a great number of tasks — cleaning my apartment, going to the gym, traveling, etc — but all of it feels small in comparison to the few short tasks I accomplish while typing on my computer. To me, physical activities have become invaluable (almost) because they don't a) educate me or b) support me financially.”

The simple fact is that it feels valuable and productive to use technology because it is. Using technology stimulates and satisfies us in a way that not using it can’t. Technology is a manifestation of our wants and hopes, our collective agreement that efficiency and large yields are good, and ultimately our desire to catalyze our evolution beyond the limitation of incremental biological increases. When we evolved to a point where survival became, for the most part, a given, our brains continued to think up more elaborate ways to keep advancing. Maybe we do it out of instinct or habit, maybe it’s the logical next step in progression, or maybe we just dream up technologies for recreation. Either way, it seems apparent to me that as a part of the human condition we strive toward betterment.

Victoria’s argument is sound. To her, ‘betterment’ is education and money. Her laptop is the means to that end. Nothing else is quite as important. But technology isn’t just a laptop. To someone who works in fitness, working out, lifting weights, and being healthy is what gives their life meaning. But they haven’t stayed satisfied with throwing rocks around a yard or cutting trees over the years. No; lifting machines have been created and housed in technology savvy gyms, food science has been mastered and the caloric value of every food substance documented, running shoes have been engineered, and high-end apps have been produced and made mobile to track energy consumption, diets, habits, and trajectories.

This same principle can be applied to almost any given career choice or lack there of. Not only should we integrate technology wholly into our lives—for the most part it already is. To deny ourselves the use of technology is to deny ourselves the best of human evolution—the best of everything we’ve worked toward. It is to be less or to be stagnant, and there is no meaning to be found in a stagnant existence.

Adolescent users of technology should be taught how to use it in such a way that encourages independence.

This is in response to a question posed by team 2 in the question forums while referencing Sherry Turkle. They asked, “Sherry Turkle writes, "…And adolescents don't face the same pressure to develop the independence we have associated with moving forward into adulthood" (173). Do you feel that technology, and constantly being connected to parental figures, hinders the process of becoming independent?”

Independence is a state of mind and a qualifier for maturity. In the early days of wide spread cell phones, parents (mine included) only agreed to allow their children a device as a means for staying in contact. I received my first cell phone when I received my first car under the stipulation that I would call after I got to wherever it was that I went. There was also the understanding that I was to use my phone to call my parents when I had questions. I found myself calling 411 (yeah that existed) and my friends when I needed advice more so than my parents, but I’ve always had tendencies toward independence. I can imagine that there are countless people who never experienced the “leaving the nest” phase or had their lives hindered in some way by an enforced limited and restricted use of their cell phones. In short, they never stopped being babysat.

Today’s phones connect to the internet, and Google provides the answers to all of life’s mysteries under a certain level of anonymity. While it may be a façade, an experienced smart phone user can skim most surfaces and behave for the most part independently of the direct influence of family or supervisors. I posit that this is a good thing. Children should be taught that their phones are resources and powerful ones at that. They should be encouraged to use them to look up answers and information. A careful education will prevent them from believing things they find outside of their community’s values and stop them from simply using their phones as toys.

Like anything we’re told we can’t have as children, restriction only makes us want it more, and when we finally get it, we abuse it. Our children should be given and taught how to use their devices independently at the earliest age society deems appropriate. This encourages trust between parent and child and better prepares them for entering a big scary technologically savvy world.

In the production of technology, potential benevolence should take precedence over potential risk.

This is in response to team 4’s discussion which brought forth the concept of the Precautionary Principle—a principle that states that a technology shouldn’t be allowed if it poses risk.

I believe that the Precautionary Principle limits growth and on a fundamental level discourages altruism. All technology possesses the potential for good and bad, and many of them are used for both simultaneously. The atomic bomb is a harrowing reality, but nuclear energy has infinite potential to spread good will and scientific discovery. Cyber bullying is an unfortunate outcome of social networking, but Facebook has connected one billion people worldwide. No technology is inherently evil. It is always a reflection of the person or people using it.

It is a human responsibility to use our creations for good, not the responsibility of the technology. To prevent something’s existence because of its potential for harm is to prevent its chance to do great, and as an extension of us, it is to prevent ourselves from greatness. Conversely, to allow something’s existence because of it’s potential for good is to be god like. It is the highest form of humanity where against our own vulnerabilities we trust ourselves to do the right thing. Instead of allowing a body or organization to police us we govern ourselves, affording us opportunities to reach new standards of aptitude, accountability, and awareness of our nature.

This normative statement is important because it encourages a bright future full of intrigue and hope. While it allows for some risk, the alternative is a future where technological advancement reflects our current legislative process—stagnant.

Jobs that can be done by machine more effectively than by their human counterpart should be.

This is in response to Ryan McLaughlin’s considered reply on knowledge as a commodity and where that leaves us in the job market.

I think that jobs, especially monotonous production or busy-work jobs, that can be done by machines should be. Machines can be less expensive, more efficient, more accurate, more lucrative, and can’t suffer injury or psychological malaise. Along with this mindset there is job loss, but most of these types of jobs are insults to our education system or point directly to niche markets and agencies that by definition have expiration dates.

Perhaps the most obvious type of jobs lost to machines is in production and manufacturing. I’m not suggesting that people who have toiled away in factories for thirty years should be thrown out onto the streets, but at some point it will be beneficial to phase people out of these jobs completely. It will force people to get better educations and force educators to give the same, allowing for better job opportunities and an increased standard of living. As higher-end jobs are filled and the market is flooded with creativity, intelligence, and organization, the ceiling will raise, giving way to ever-evolving job variations, improving upon the human experience indefinitely.

The other job market that is threatened by this normative statement contains niche agencies, many of which have already been replaced with online counterparts and apps. Markets such as travel agencies and real estate have traditionally over-charged for their services. The digitization of their services is the economy’s natural inclination to balance prices and spread to the largest number of consumers.

This statement is important because while making a living is important, it doesn’t possess normative ideal. We should seek to raise our standard of living, increase our quality of employment, and democratize available goods and services.