Lindsey Macdonald - Manifesto

1. We should not continue to create digital technologies designed to replicate or replace human life and/or intelligence.

Although there are some positive representations of artificial intelligence, like prosthetics, that help improve people’s lives, there are also many negative ones that seek out to replace human existence. For example, I saw a commercial on TV (I think it was on the Science channel) with a robot saying, “I want to be the first robot to earn a Ph.d.” After seeing this I thought to myself, “What’s the point of that?” In The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil argues that eventually technology will evolve on its own and people won’t even need to do anything in the “real world” because virtual reality and artificial intelligence will do everything for them. My argument is: what’s the point of living if we aren’t going to have to do anything anymore? Can virtual reality and artificial intelligence really replace face-to-face interactions and close relationships? Humans have always been social beings, and I think that living in a virtual world with robots indistinguishable from people would take away apart of our humanity. I’m just as addicted to today’s technology as the next college student, but there always comes a time where it’s just too much and I need to just get out and socialize with people. Similarly, what would happen to the human body if we lived this way? We would all become big lumps just like in Wall-E. Because of these factors, I don’t think Kurzweil’s prediction will happen, at least not completely, and I think it would be harmful to human nature if it did.

2. Education should cater to the “digital native’s” style of learning.

Whether we like to admit it or not, the emergence of the Internet, where we can acquire instant knowledge on almost any subject, has stifled our ability to read and remember long texts. This does not mean that we can’t understand what they’re saying; it’s just that we can’t retain all of that information when we’ve gotten so used to just retaining small bits of information at one time. In The Shallows, Nicholas Carr explains how our brain adjusts to make more room for the functions it uses the most, which means less room for the functions that aren’t used as much. For instance, our capacity for short-term memory has increased because we use it much more and our capacity for long-term memory has decreased because we use it much less. It’s not a matter of deficiency; it’s just a matter of biology. Although a degree in the humanities does require close reading of texts, teachers should adjust their curriculums to cater to the needs of student’s decreasing capacity for long-term memory. For example, if a teacher makes a Powerpoint, they should make sure to use short sentences and small paragraphs, so the student doesn’t feel overwhelmed and turned off by a large body of text. Or instead of giving finals and midterms, teachers should have small quizzes throughout the semester when the information is still fresh in student’s minds. These strategies will help students to actual learn and retain the material without overwhelming them.

3. We should preserve anonymity on the Internet but at the same time closely monitor what people post about others.

I think it’s very important to maintain anonymity on the Internet because without this anonymity, as Jay brought up in class on Tuesday, there are certain voices that would be left out. For instance, surveys for possibly important or touchy studies are often conducted on the Internet, and people wouldn’t do these surveys if they had to reveal their identities to the researchers. In addition, people may not voice their opinions on articles or blogs if they didn’t have the option to be anonymous. While you are never truly anonymous on the Internet (“Big Brother” can always find you), you are still anonymous to the general public that doesn’t know how to track people down. But sometimes people abuse and hide behind this anonymity. For example, there are many hurtful anonymous comments left on the Collegiate Times attacking other’s views. These comments are often personal attacks and have absolutely nothing constructive to say about the issue that was originally brought up, like when Caty Gordon said that one person called her a dike for her views on the controversy at Yale. This can also be seen on websites that are meant to be hurtful, like Juicy Campus, where people anonymously post gossip about others. People have committed suicide because of hurtful things said about them over the Internet. I think that sites need to more closely monitor comments and delete the really cruel comments that have nothing to do with the issue being discussed and only serve to hurt others.

4. The “digital natives” should not be seen as lazy, but rather as products of cultural change.

In The Shallows, Nicholas Carr accuses the “digital generation” of having short attention spans, not being able to think deeply about anything, and basically being lazy. What Carr fails to address is that every new generation is accused of these things. With every new generation comes new technologies that may, more or less, make life “easier” for that generation. The older generation then gets on their high horse and complains about how they didn’t have those things when they were younger and how these things are inhibiting the newer generation from learning hard work. In other words, this is not unique to the digital generation. As Dr. Collier said, people were accusing the television generation of being lumps of lard that just sit on the couch all day and don’t do anything productive. It’s just all about perspective. In addition, at least people are participating when using digital technology like the Internet or cell phones. Clay Shirky argues that any kind of activity that we do is productive and that we all have different definitions of productivity. Those who didn’t grow up with the Internet may find it to be a waste of time, but others see it as a tool to gain greater knowledge. Culture, like technology, is not static and is always changing, and this, just like in the past, is simply a culture shift.

5. Children’s technology, whether it is meant for education or entertainment, should not stifle or replace the bond between the parent and the child, and the parent should be able to choose how and what they want their child to learn.

Although there is no right or wrong way to raise and teach children, I think that, no matter what, there needs to be a strong bond between the parent and child. I also think that today’s children’s technology can sometimes stifle this bond and sometimes even replace the relationship that children have with their parents. For instance, parents have been giving children iPhones to entertain them during the times they can’t themselves, like in the car or at the store. According to the article that I posted on my last considered reply, what the parents are noticing is that once they get home, the children don’t want to put the iPhones down. They would rather watch cartoons then have playtime with mom and dad. The article also said that parents were feeling guilty because they felt like giving them these technologies to entertain them was just an easy way out and wasn’t really educational or stimulating in any way. The way I interpreted this was that the parents thought they had no choice; this is the technology that’s out there, so that’s what they’re going to give to their kids. But parents have the right to choose what they want to expose their children to and how and what they want them to learn. If parents want their children to read books instead of watch TV or play video games (educational or not) then that’s their prerogative.

6. Things like Facebook and texting should enhance, not replace, face-to-face, real life relationships.

In class on Tuesday, November 9, we discussed virtual reality and people being caught up so much in virtual worlds that they forget about their real lives. In some cases, this has been fatal; for example, the woman who shook her baby because it started crying while she was playing Farmville or the couple who neglected their real baby to take care of their virtual one. Although I personally don’t think I could ever get caught up in a virtual world, I see its appeal because unlike real life, you can control everything that happens. Using technologies like Facebook and texting have this same kind of appeal. When you talk with someone over Facebook or through texting, you have the ability to think about what you say before it reaches the other person. You don’t have to give them an immediate response; you can give them an answer any time you want to. I know this appeals to people because it appeals to me. Although I think this is fine in some cases, such as making plans or just asking simple questions, I don’t think these forms of communication should replace our real life relationships and interactions. They should instead help us to keep these relationships strong by enabling us to more easily make plans or to keep in contact when we’re far away from each other.