Manifesto Part 2

Technological Principles for the Modern World

Preamble

Over the course of the spring semester, our class has been presented with a range of technological issues, from ethics to everyday use. The following Manifesto will share our class’ opinions and observations of digital technologies and how they affect our lives. Our philosophy of technology is that we support technology and we are accepting of it; however, we are wary of its evolution in the future and how it will affect us.


Statements

1. Technology should remain a gateway for freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
The laws surrounding technologies, specifically, the Internet, are vague and unofficial at best. With the way the Internet has become an integral part of daily life, it’s realistic to assume that stricter Internet laws will be created in the very near future. These new laws should put protection people’s of freedom of speech and expression over protection of the Internet.

The Internet is an open media outlet, as well as a popular method of communication throughout the world that allows for innovation and creativity in a space where cultures collide and world issues are explored. Individuals have the right to post their views and thoughts on the Internet just as they have the right to explain their ideas in an article or in a speech. Basic human rights, freedom of speed and expression, should be extended to include the latest technologies.

This principle is essentially an extension of the First Amendment that includes new media outlets and technologies. Without this principle, there would be censorship on the Internet and limitations on our use of technology. Government censorship and restrictions on online postings are very real possibilities as it already occurs in countries like China. In China, American search engine companies are required by the government to block certain anti-government websites or replace searches with photos of happy tourists (Helft and Barboza).

We need to take action to ensure that our human rights will be carried over to new media outlets and technologies as they are invented. This principle is essential to setting the groundwork for how technology is used and perceived.

2. We should be aware of how our use of technology has changed us, and we should take steps to change ourselves if we don’t like what we’re becoming.
Nicholas Carr says that our brains are plastic and repeated behaviors result in altered brain structure (27). He argues that our use of the Internet is changing our brains, causing us to process information differently (38). As a society, we could benefit from being conscious of the behaviors that shape our brains and our thoughts.

Like Carr suggests the Internet is one of the causes of a few undesirable traits, such as short attention span, poor memory and a decreased ability to read long or complicated prose. While these traits may not be present in all Internet users, the Internet has made them more prevalent. Since our brains are ‘plastic,’ we are not stuck with these negative traits forever. If we intentionally reintroduce behaviors that exercise those neural pathways, we can change our thought processes.

Some people may not want to exert the effort required to achieve this level of self-awareness, but for those who think this a worthwhile task, the result could be greater control over one’s own mind. Consciousness of the way we are changing our brains through behavior could help us intentionally reintroduce behaviors into our lives so that we do not lose traits that we wish to keep. We could also use this practice to develop traits that we want to have, but never had.

3. We should accept that an increase in reliance on technology will result in less privacy and understand that we are responsible for protecting our own internet identities.
“There's a good chance that privacy regulators—spurred by a public that doesn't really know what it wants when it comes to online privacy—may go too far, blocking Google from collecting and analyzing information about its users. That will be a terrible outcome, because while we all reflexively hate the thought of a company analyzing our digital lives, we also benefit from this practice in many ways that we don't appreciate.”
-Article on Google Privacy http://www.slate.com/id/2290719/

This principle may be at odds with our American logic of self-protection, but the benefits of allowing companies like Google to collect information regarding how we use the Internet far outweigh the negatives. One downside is that embarassing searches can be linked back to users, but by recording every search, Google also makes the entire process of searching the Internet much more efficient and user-friendly. Another example is online banking. While online banking makes it easier for people to steal identities, the conveniences of online banking, such as instant balance checks or money transfers, generally make our lives much easier.

The idea of companies mining our personal information is a scary thought, but these companies also have some incentives to protect personal information, since privacy concerns could easily result in their downfall. By understanding basic computer and internet safety, we can do a lot to protect ourselves.

Taking personal responsibility for our online identities is important because less privacy results in more available information online, and unless our society is willing to forfeit access and convenience, we need to personally ensure our own security. While some may argue that personal data has little to do with access to information, the fact remains that many of our errands or other activities can now be completed online, which is largely because companies are able to predict and satisfy our demands through the use of technologies that gather personal information.

We, as users, are somewhat powerless to stop data mining. Google and Facebook, among many others, have the power to mine this information and will continue to do so. The best thing we can do is to understand the advantages of data mining and be proactive about our own safety.

4. We should not replace all paper publications with e-paper or electronic publications.
In the article Top 10 E-Paper Technologies In the Next 20 Years, Chris Jablonski lists e-paper technologies that are likely to become available in the future. Though e-paper itself is not inherently bad, worries arise about it replacing some traditional forms of publishing; such as books, magazines, and newspapers. The experience of reading on paper versus reading on a screen is quite different, and both of these experiences should remain available.

E-paper also makes it easier to change something that has already been published, which can cause some problems. Information can be easily omitted from books, and updated versions of texts can replace previous versions. This ability to change published works would take away the sense of completion and permanence from publishing, which would probably reduce the quality of works being published for the first time, and it would also make it easier for information to be censored. As Carr discusses in chapter 6 of “The Shallows, “ printed books give us many benefits that electronic copies take away. Because electronic copies can be updated at any time, both readers and writers lose their sense of closure when finishing a book. This loss, in turn, may lead to a change in the way we think about books. As Carr says, “the pressure to achieve perfection will diminish along with the artistic rigor that the pressure imposed” (107).

One of the primary implications of retaining some paper publications while also using e-paper technologies would be the continued use of resources to produce paper. However, recycling could potentially reduce the number of trees cut down, and it can be argued that e-paper must be manufactured from other materials too. Retaining some paper productions could also help to maintain the quality of published works and ensure that there is a more permanent way of recording written works.

5. We should be skeptical of but remain open to new digital technological advances.
It is important to remain open-minded to the advances in technology that our society presents, but not all changes are for the best, and for that reason, we must remain skeptical and criticize technology when necessary. Weighing the benefits and negative aspects of new technologies is critical in technological development, but despite the criticism that we rightfully debate, it is important to never shut the door on technological advancements that could one day make incredibly profound impacts on our world. By balancing open-mindedness and skepticism in technological advancements, we can best incorporate technological change into society. It’s important to learn about new technologies while still maintaining a critical eye. Not all technologies are necessary or necessarily great, but by keeping our minds open, we can determine what is best in our lives. If everyone adopted this view, the world could have more research into technological advancements, but the public would be held accountable for speaking up for what they believe to be in the best interest of everyone else.
[Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/24/technology/24online.html]

6. We should view our interactions through technology as interactions with each other, rather than as interactions with technology itself.
A favorite scenario recurrs in the picture of a date with each person’s cell phones at the ready. We may either view that as our technology occupying a seat beside us, alongside our date, or we may view it as a simple conduit for potential friend-interaction. For one thing, on a date, that’s considered rude, but for another, that idea that the cell-phone has a spot at the dinner table is a little skewed.

If we viewed the presence of the cell-phone not as a cell-phone, but as the conduit of person-to-person interaction, it distorts the dominance of technology. Why must we be considered to be engaging with our cell-phones when we text or talk on it? Why can we not see it as enlarging our time spent within the mass human interaction that rests on the Web? Shirky argues in Cognitive Surplus that humans intrinsically desire communication and networking. What technology does is provide a tremendous outlet for it—therefore, we take advantage of it.

If we keep this in mind, we keep ourselves from fearing technology and its dominating presence in our lives. We maintain our own preeminence while remembering that it is human interaction we crave. We crave reminders of our existence, validation, and we ought to remember that technology simply acts as the conduit, not the replacement.

7. We should control technology, it should not control us.
While Kevin Kelly believes technology has basically taken on a life of its own and no longer requires human development in order to progress, we are inclined to disagree. Our belief is that it is imperative for our future that we try and understand the implications of new technology before implanting them on a wide scale. There may always be unintended or unforeseen consequences of technology but consumers need to hold the researchers and developers accountable for their actions. It is important to realize that technology may be initially designed with a specific purpose but then quickly outgrows that purpose and contributes to progress on a much wider scale. It is best to avoid falling prey to the notion that any advance in technology is a good (as Kelly suggests) simply because it offers us more choices.

The idea of technology making us collectively “better” is a good idea, but not necessarily an accurate vision of reality. If technology makes someone a better Nazi, we must strive to understand both the good and bad of said technology. It comes down to the idea that we must do our very best to control technology and not merely be lead around by it. While understanding the full implications of each new technology maybe difficult, it is important to strive to anticipate just how it may shape the future. By starting a conversation and understanding both the upside and drawbacks, we can better make informed decisions regarding technology. That is not to say that everyone will agree on the path that technology should take. However, rather than limiting any research or development which would probably prove impossible anyway, we should try as best we can to understand the implications of new technology; thus preventing technology from controlling society as a whole.

8. We should not rely on the Internet for human interaction and friendship.
Shirky says that many fear “the decay of face-to-face contact” as a result of digital media use, but he argues that digital media instead brings people together (38). Though it can be said the Internet does make planning and spreading information easier, we do not believe this means that our ability to communicate face-to-face has not declined.

Some may think that face-to-face communication is becoming unnecessary since we have other ways of communicating, but communicating in person allows for emotions and impressions that are difficult to portray or interpret online to be shared. The ability to have a meaningful face-to-face conversation with someone is something that will probably atrophy if it is not practiced. In interacting with people, we give and receive visual cues, and the intonation of our voices also conveys information. If we become unaccustomed to communicating with these cues, our interactions could become less meaningful.

Skype and AOL Instant Messenger are convenient ways to communicate with people directly, either by automatic text or video calling. While helpful tools to correspond with people you do not see or live near on a regular basis, relying solely on these as communication tools can manipulate the way people view each other. Direct communication is a benefit of Internet correspondence; however, it can provide a person with a sense of disconnect, as well as contribute to their dependence on the Internet to find a meaningful relationship. We believe that conducting friendships face-to-face as much as possible provides for a real connection between people representing who they truly are, not just their online persona.

9. People should actively stay aware of how technology affects them, mentally and externally.
We often pretend that online sites do not track us or use our personal information, and when they do, we feel outraged and betrayed. However, there is no legal basis for our frustrations. since no privacy laws for Internet use exist. Since there is not much protection for Internet users, we need to remember to indulge in the Internet with caution.

Software companies prioritize advertising, and because of that, we need to be aware of the information that is tracked while we are online. Furthermore, according to Nicholas Carr, the Internet use may result in the "rewiring of our brains." The structure of the Internet, especially sites such as Google, makes distractions a common occurrence because new links to new and possibly interesting material are on almost every page. These distractions teach our brains to jump from one thing to another, to multitask, and to make split-second decisions—all of which Carr fears lessen our ability to think reflectively.

If we remain aware that the Internet is not a place for personal privacy, and we are cautious of that fact, we can alleviate our paranoia of privacy violations. In the same way, we need to remember that our brains are malleable and therefore vulnerable to behavioral restructuring. The Internet is an activity that has the potential to alter our neural pathways, but as participants in an increasingly intimate relationship with technology, we ought to know what we are getting ourselves into so that we can enter with clear and assertive minds.

10. Technology should be present for our enjoyment, but should not replace books, outdoor entertainment, or previously enjoyed activities because of convenience and accessibility.
Technology should be accessible because humans create and consume it. Humans can “love” their computers and iPads because they can personalize them and adapt them to human needs, not because the technologies regulate human existences. In the event that technologies shut down, or are taken off the market, or lose software support and repair warantees, the human should not have learned to rely on the technologies.

Humans should understand the evolution of their purchased technology, and they should buy technologies based on their own needs and not the appealing and popular image of having the technology. Technologies should be used based on what humans need, not what everybody else has. Many people identify themselves with the technologies they use (we are Mac or PC people) instead of identifying the consumerism and industrialization behind the product. The product should bring us entertainment and convenience, not define us. We define the product based on the music we store on it, the data and information we give it, and the ways in which we make it personal to us.

Google wants to dominate print and online publishing by digitizing all books published. Their use of digital technology should not come down to owning rights to every book ever published. Digitizing all forms of print neglects the value of the book, of the poem, and of the literary medium. We enjoy books and print for the effort it took to write, revise, edit, and publish. It takes time to popularize a novel, and the entertainment value of a book compares differently to the entertainment value a website provides.

By taking breaks from technologies and the virtual world, users can reconnect with the physical world and develop their identities apart from the technologies that have become such an integral part of our lives. Doing this may help to restore our value of music, the written word, the arts, and nature.

11. The primary education system ought to update how technology is taught in accordance with which technologies are used in the professional world.
Technology is constantly changing and updating. The technologies that were top of the line five years ago are now completely outdated. As technology updates so should our system of education. The whole point of education is to prepare students for the real world and teach them all the skills they’ll need to lead a successful life. Technologies become outdated and newer technologies take their place in society.

In order to prepare children for the real world, they should be taught how to use the most commonly used technologies in the real world. More than that, children now have a working knowledge of digital technologies going into school. At home they have been exposed to technology through computers, TV, downloads and social websites. They are comfortable with new technologies and are not afraid to tackle the process of working with new technology, in fact, they find it fun. Trying to teach them basic computer skills would be ineffective because most already have basic or even moderate computer skills. In fact, recently a Finland middle school was given a grant to update from blackboards to Smart Boards (Ensinger). Teachers reported that after the switch students seemed more engaged in the classroom and many showed a renewed interest in their studies (Ensinger). This principle should be adopted because it would keep our system of education current and allow the curriculum to specifically cater to the students’ needs as they relate to technology.

We recognized that public schools across the country face budget problems that keep them from incorporating all of the latest technology into elementary, middle, and high school programs; but we feel that technology is imperative to learning, and should be a priority in the budget. By simply investing in better computers that can access the newest, latest information, schools could benefit significantly because textbooks in school are frequently out of date. In order to ensure that children will be properly prepared for the future, it is vital that the education system technologies keep up with the professional world.

12. We should stay rooted in reality.
As a society we should all value our reality and not let technology overwhelm our every day life. Real life is more than just an experience. Stayed rooted in reality is really important today when technology’s place in our life is steadily increasing. With video games and virtual worlds online, it is easy to become distanced from reality. We should make maintaining a close relationship with the real world a priority.

By staying rooted in what actually happens on daily basis, people will be more connected not only to their actual life but also to the people in it, which is such an important aspect of life.

In the article, “I don’t want to be a superhero,” Chaplin talks about video games that teach people to do chores. What kind of world would it be if people started neglecting real life responsibilities and started doing them online or in video games? While there are incentives offered for virtual life, real life is where all the monumental and wonderful things happen to a person. Being married or having a baby in a virtual world would not be nearly the same as experiencing those actual connections in real life.

While virtual worlds can be fun for awhile, they offer no real benefits to people in the real world. By staying rooted in reality, we can enhance the experiences and connections in our actual lives.


Concluding Declaration

In the modern world, we find it impossible to completely ignore the technological advances which have become so prevalent in our lives. Therefore, while we support and accept technology and its many benefits, we remain wary of its unknowable future and the permanent affect it will have on our lives. We acknowledge that there is no reversing direction or turning back the clock; in some ways, our only option is acceptance. But our acceptance is coupled with a belief in the essential freedoms of human individuality and choice. We, as a society, must make choices in regards to which technologies we accept and the ubiquity of those technologies in our lives. Our choices must reflect our desire to maintain freedom of speech and of expression, despite whatever disagreements and inconveniences may arise from them. We must make our decisions based not only on what is currently good for us but also what will be good for future generations. We cannot sell our future short in the name of technological convenience. However, we must also accept the many benefits that will result as technology continues to develop at the most rapid pace in human history. These advances may have corresponding sacrifices which we as a society must either be prepared to accept or to try and change the course of that technology, even through political means if necessary. The education of our children remains an important topic in regards to technology; while we try to shelter them from potential harms, we also must understand that because technology will continue to have a primary place in our lives, our children should be educated to understand the potential benefits and problems which a life reliant on technology entails. Technology will continue to have an important place in our lives and it is therefore up to us to determine our own levels of interaction with and reliance upon it. While we may not know the future of technology, we can be prepared to deal with the radical changes it may present.

Works Cited and Consulted
Bernard, Sarah. “Students Know How We Should Use Technology.” Mind Shift: How We Learn. KQED. 29 Dec. 2010. Web. 12 April 2011.

Carr, Nicholas. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. W.W. Norton &
Company: New York, 2010.

Copeland, Libby. “The Anti-Social Network.” Slate. 26 January 2011. Web. 12 April 2011.

Darnton, Robert. “A Digital Library Better than Google’s.” The New York Times. 23
March 2011. Web. 12 April 2011.

Ensinger, Dustin. “Smart Boards bring latest technology into classrooms.” Westland News. Westland News. 30 March 2011. Web 8 April 2011.
Kelly, Kevin. What Technology Wants. New York: Viking, 2010.

Manjoo, Farhad. "Google privacy: The Good Things That Happen When Web Companies Use Our Personal Data." Slate Magazine. 7 Apr. 2011. Web. Apr. 2011.

Mitchell, Dan. “Being Skeptical of Green.” The New York Times. The New York Times. 24 Nov. 2007. Web. 12 April 2011.

Shafer, Jack. "If You Want Web Privacy, Stop Being Such a Freeloader. Pay for It." Slate Magazine. 8 Dec. 2010. Web. Apr. 2011.

Shirky, Clay. Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. New York: The Penguin Group, 2010. Print.; Professor Collier, 2011 Living Through Technology Class Discussion.