Manifesto Part 2

Adapting to Technology: Managing Information and Personal Responsibility.

While many books and articles that discuss the future of technology and society vary greatly in their opinions, there is one fact that nearly every single one of them agrees on: the evolution of technology is inevitable. The question is not whether or not we should oppose technology, but rather how to adapt to its advancement. Widespread communication, overwhelming information, and increased resource consumption are some of the most critical challenges we face today. Amidst all the overwhelming issues that rapidly-advancing technology brings, it can be difficult to know how to handle it. The following normative statements provide guidance to citizens on how best to live and thrive in the information age.

Keywords: Adapting, Personal Responsibility, Information Management

Normative Statements

1. 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.

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

I happened to be at the mall at the time of the shooting in the Christiansburg mall. I was in Belk 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. I decided that she was crazy because why would she continue shopping if she actually believed there was shooter loose in the mall. I stood there unsure of what to do for a moment when an announcer 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. I ran out to my car and left the mall parking lot 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. The ability to share this information rapidly and effectively strengthens our community and allows us to become safer and happier people.

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. Social networking communities may appear to draw away from the immediacy of community and family, but in truth they are allowing massive online communities to form. 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.

I have adopted this policy because I am a firm believer in the knowledge and strength of 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.

3. We should realize that technological advancement is inevitable, and therefore we should use it to its utmost advantages to improve human life.

Once we have come to the realization the technological advancement is inevitable, it is important to embrace it and use it for all the advantages it has to offer. Technological advancement can improve functions of human life and make our lives much easier. We may be able to perform certain tasks quicker, therefore saving money. Additionally, we can receive information faster and be in contact with people at all times. Our learning can become personalized allowing everyone to receive the best education available to them. Having this principle in place will allow everyone in our society to benefit from whatever new technologies are available to them. I think that this principle would be accepted by the majority of society. Of course, people can choose whether or not to use these different technologies. But that point is that they will have a choice—various technologies will not be ‘off limits’ because someone deemed it to be. These advancements have the potential to not only make our lives easier, but perhaps longer as well. If this principle is accepted and we as a society choose to embrace these advancements, it may accelerate the rate at which new innovations are made. Throughout history, we have seen the positive effects that technology has had on society. We should continue to learn from that and be open to whatever positive changes future technology can make as well. If people do not accept technology, there will be no reason to encourage future advancement. This principle is fundamental for creating a society where humans and technology coexist.

4. Technology makes us expect less from people, so we should recognize this and work to change it.

This idea comes from Turkle’s “Alone Together,” specifically in our class’s discussion on chapter 12. In this section, she explains that through our constant connection to technology, our relationships are suffering, and that it makes us have lower expectations when interacting and communicating with people. This inhibits and even restricts our ability to increase interpersonal skills and build meaningful relationships with other people. Therefore, this principle states that though technology has the ability to make us expect less from people, we should have the urge and motivation to become aware of this change in expectation and make changes accordingly as to alter the actual affect it has. For instance, perhaps there is a way to embrace this technology, but find a way to change the way in which it affects us, maybe even using it to strengthen relationships and encourage interpersonal skill building. I have adopted this principle because it is something that people deal with in their relationships every day. Whether it is when people are with friends or loved ones at dinner, watching a movie with a relative, or even chatting with a significant other, it seems that technology is always consuming most of their time, energy, and attention. This is frustrating, especially to older people, because it was not an issue in the past and it is something that current generations are especially learning to cope with and accept. However, the problem here lies in the fact that our generation is becoming immune to this negative affect, do not notice it, and do not care about it at all. Instead, if everyone were to adopt this principle, it is my belief that relationships would grow stronger, people would be more invested in others, and this reliability on technology might even decrease to some extent.

5. Humans ought to embrace the crowd sourced knowledge of the internet.

We discussed the idea in class of knowledge being a commodity, something to be bought and sold. Knowledge has we have previously conceived it is changing. It is no longer an important quality for a person to be able to pull facts out of the air, instead it is important for a person to understand how technology works and how do quickly and efficiently gather information. David Weinberger discusses the overload of knowledge that can occur when we have all the information at our finger tips in “Too Big to Know”. The internet broadens our scope of knowledge; Weinberger says, “Our system of knowledge is a clever adaptation to the fact that our environment is too big to be known by any one person. A species that gets answers and can then stop asking is able to free itself for new inquiries,” (21). All of the information is too big for anyone person but if we collaborate and dump our collective knowledge onto the internet it will make us all smarter humans. The internet also allows us to have something that we did not have before—knowledge in the collective sense. By crowd sourcing information and combing small pieces of information from multiple sources we are closer to reaching the correct answer. The crowd is smart than any one person and technology amplifies this.

6. Digital technology should not be used to genetically or cognitively alter those without need.

The future of biotechnology is no longer on the way, it has seemingly been delivered. Innovations such as the skin gun, artificial lymph nodes, and self-reporting pacemakers are all hitting their stride. Technology is greatly expediting medical progress, but we must be aware of how that progress is utilized. Society, for the most part, will use this digital technology as it is intended. A small portion, however, will look to capitalize on opportunities for self-improvement. Those with financial means can already purchase a better self via cosmetic surgery. Fortunately, these changes are superficial but technology has given life to the idea of genetic or cognitive advantage. For a small fortune, couples can already genetically engineer a child to receive desired characteristics.

This is the point at which biotechnology must succumb to the division of need and want. The purpose of biotechnology should be to better the health of those in need, not enhance the ability of the fully-capable. With genetic or cognitive enhancement comes inequality. Those who can afford or are willing to use biotechnology to better themselves gain an advantage others cannot obtain. This may coerce individuals to embrace digital technology they oppose in order to keep up or simply outcast those who cannot afford it (Cakic).

If the presented statement were to be universally accepted, it would prevent further separation of class among society. It would also protect the dignity of the digital technology in question. Adding this statement to the collective manifesto would provide guidance in regard to biotechnology. As medicine pertains to and affects almost everyone, medical technology should progress in a controlled, fair direction that benefits all.

7. Humans should sustain intimate interaction despite constant connection.

This idea came from Sherry Turkle’s “Alone Together” chapter 9. Round-the-clock access to smart phones and Internet apps provide closeness among people who share, discover, and discuss their lives with each other and the world. Advancements in technology have enhanced our generation’s desire for constant connection. Most people cannot sit through dinner without picking up their phone to check email, texts, and other social media apps. Even when we are alone in our room we have our cell phones and laptops close by. It has been said that this generation hides behind technology; that we use our cell phones and computers to portray a different persona than what we really are. It is a lot easier to be who we want to be using our lap tops and cell phones. We choose social media sites and texting over actually meeting up with or talking to someone.

Online communities are great, and we should embrace them, but that should not be the only interaction we have with people. Our generation’s constant access to technology has created a strong desire for closeness and connection, but not in the traditional sense of intimacy. The concept of constant connection was taken to an entirely new level with the invention of smart phones. We share deep personal information through Facebook posts and Twitter streams. We also share every thought through outrageous numbers of texts and emails every day. Intimacy in today’s terms does not refer to sexual closeness, but rather the amount of information obtained about others through connection. In the long run, human interactions are much more beneficial and rewarding than those interactions that we have with technology. This principle should be taken seriously because it has become so easy to use technology in place of actual human interactions. It will never be the norm to not be able to hold a simple conversation, and that may be the direction we are heading in.

8. We should make recycling methods for electronics more readily available.

The use of electronics has grown over time and electronics, like cell phones and computers, are very common in the average U.S. home. Cell phones can easily die or be broken, but not many people know what to do with them after they are no longer of use. Usually people throw them away. We do have programs provided online, like the Earth911, Call2Recycle, eCyclingCenter, Electronic Industries Alliance, and GreenerGadgets that can recycle electronics; however, the local towns or even the public recycling companies do not offer or talk about these programs. Recycling computers, iPods, iPads, and numerous other electronic devises will help us reduce the pollution issues involved when electronics leach toxins into the soil at public dumpsite. We throw away cell phones because programs like Earth911 are not readily made available to us. If that were to change, then “recycling one million laptops [will] save the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year” (EPA.gov). Even better, “for every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered” (EPA.gov). This can decrease the need to mine for more minerals and in turn, reduce the environmental effect on the planet. By making it known that electronics can be recycled, the government and other countries can help reduce the effect electronics have on nature and make a profit in the long run. We as a society need to encourage the spreading of these programs or make these programs a part of the local recycling systems. Although there have been laws passed to require manufactures to place recycling brands on the product and prepare a recycling plan, we still don’t completely recycle all the electronics we use. This claim should be considered because making recycling methods for electronics common knowledge will help us in the future to avoid further harming nature and in turn, ourselves.

9. We as individuals in the "Living Through Technology" classroom ought to be actively looking for opportunities to pair digital technologies and the human experience in a positive way.

As a class, we have a unique advantage in today’s world. This class places a heavy focus on digital technologies and the moral problems that come with them. We have tackled many of these problems, and worked through them as a group, in class discussions, online forums, and research presentations. We have gained knowledge in this way, a knowledge that much of the world lacks, but that it needs, because of the explosion of digital technologies. Given our newly acquired knowledge, we are in the unique position of being informed in the area of digital technologies and their potential effects. If we use our knowledge and discretion to seek out digital technologies that change the human experience in a positive way, and nurture those technologies, and advance them in the eyes of society, we can make changes for the better.

10. Health Information Technology should be embraced in order to improve the managing and sharing of patient information.

In an article from the Alliance for Health Reform, health information technology is defined as, “Information processing using both computer hardware and software for the entry, storage, retrieval, sharing, and use of health care information. Two common components of HIT are electronic medical records and computerized physician order entry” (A Reporter's Toolkit: Health Information Technology). The implementation of health information technology (health IT), has been pretty slow in the United States. While some doctors are using electronic health electronic health records (EHRs), many of them are using less than fully operational systems. “Fully operational” systems are defined as ones that, “collect and store patient data, supply patient data to providers on request, permit physicians to enter patient care orders, and assist providers in making evidence-based clinical decisions” (A Reporter's Toolkit: Health Information Technology). If health IT were embraced, there could be a significant reduction in medical errors and patient information could be shared more easily. In turn, efficiency would be improved and it would save money. The article states, “According to RAND Corporation researchers, full implementation of health IT systems could produce efficiency savings as great as $77 billion per year after a 15-year adoption period” (A Reporter's Toolkit: Health Information Technology). Another technology of health IT is computerized physician order entry (CPOE), which allows doctors to order tests and prescriptions digitally. This also allows for fewer errors due to scrawled prescription notes. The toolkit states, “CPOE systems check for the accuracy of prescription orders, flagging any orders that appear extreme. One study concluded that CPOE systems for prescriptions could reduce preventable medication errors by as much as 55 percent because they ensure, at a minimum, that orders are complete and legible” (A Reporter's Toolkit: Health Information Technology). Healthcare is extremely important. Patient records are even more important. If a dosage of medicine is written down incorrectly, it could mean the end of someone’s life. It happens more than it should.In order for this adoption to happen, a lot of things need to happen. All health parties involved must be connected and use software that communicates across multiple places and is linked.

11. To cut down on the amount of paper being used and to help preserve the environment we should take more advantage of the technologies we’ve developed.

We have the technology to send emails and digital copies and to cut down on the amount of paper that we waste and yet we still waste paper. If you look at the facts for how much paper that we waste everyday, we could save so many trees and keep things out of landfills. Yes recycling is great, but it’s not enough. We are destroying our environment by not regulating how much we use, and yet we have the technology to cut down on so much of our waste and yet we don’t use it. It would take a lot of work to get schools to switch to a system in which tests and homework and other things are put online, but wouldn’t it save money in the long run when the school doesn’t have to buy paper constantly. Are we saving money by not converting to digital technology or are we just being lazy about it. Think about how much paper you could save in a day if every school for one day used no paper at all. I look back at how much paper I used for school and I’m sure that alone I killed a small forest for what purpose other than to have something to hold in my hand. If we have these technologies why not use them to our advantage, rather than squandering them away. If we set up government regulations on how much paper can be used by each school in a school year and then set up our schools with the technology they need to go paperless we could not only take a hunk out of the environmental factor, but the switch to the digital age could actually help in the improvement of education. For a long time I was very set on pen and paper for everything, and in some ways I still have that romantic Jane Austen notion, but the fact is that as our society has progressed those romantic ideals have become indecent and to help make sure that we keep moving forward we need to make sure that we our preserving the planet we live on to help sustain the path that we are forging.

12. Standards of self-regulation and fact-checking online content should be taught to school-aged children to promote more widespread, responsible Internet usage.

As Sherry Turkle states, “when media are always there, waiting to be wanted, people lose a sense of choosing to communicate” (Turkle 163). Similarly, David Weinberger explains that “the real limitation isn’t the capacity of our individual brains but that of the media we have used to get past our brains’ limitations” (Weinberger 5). Promoting values self-regulation both in media consumption and media creation fosters a consumer base of people who are contently questioning the value of the technological media they consume on a daily basis. This can be paired in school curriculums with methods of online fact checking. Together with self-regulation, fact checking becomes extremely important to foster from an early age because it takes the edge off of the constantly updated online media cycle. If consumers are naturally tuned to double check sources and fact-check the information they are consuming and the people they trust online, there will be less likelihood of widespread or casual misuse or abuse of these online media channels.

Conclusion

Despite our desire to limit certain aspects of technology, we remain largely optimistic about its development. We have chosen to openly embrace technology, yet in a manner in which our unique human identity is preserved — whatever that might be.

We trust this manifesto finds you well.

Sincerely yours,

Curtis Stanford
Caitlin Fernandez
Meighan Dober
Andrea Long
Erin Chapman
Keith Pillow
Brittany Brown
Kelsey Jaeger
Amber Wiley-Vawter
Ethan Young
Ryan McLaughlin
Lauryn Hobbs
Victoria Zigadlo
Alex Gomes
Lauren Spindle
Tim Weidman

Works Cited

Cakic, Vince. “Smart Drugs for Cognitive Enhancement: Ethical and Pragmatic Considerations in the Era of Cosmetic Neurology.” Journal of Medical Ethics 35.10 (2009): 611-615. Web. 12 April 2013.

Collier, Jim. Living Through Technology. n.d. Web. 16 April 2013. http://ltt.wikidot.com

Juliet, J. "Benefits of Technology." Benefits of Everything that Matters. N.p.,
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Katherine. How can going paperless benefit me and my business? Katherine. Organize to Excel. 2010. Web. 12 Mar. 2013. ‹http://www.organizetoexcel.com/tips/how-can-going-paperless-benefit-me-and-my-business-.html›.

Kelly, Kevin. What Technology Wants. New York: Viking, 2010. Print.

Kensington. Can Education Go Paperless? Kensington. Kensington Computer Group. 2013. Web. 21 Feb. 2013. ‹http://clicksafe.kensington.com/laptop-security-blog/bid/91219/Can-education-go-paperless#axzz2QhChXYP9›.

Takvorian, Sam. "A Reporter's Toolkit: Health Information Technology."Alliance for Health Reform. Alliance for Health Reform, n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2013. <http://www.allhealth.org/publications/health_information_technology/health_information_technology_toolkit.asp>.

Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic, 2011. Print.

"US Environmental Protection Agency." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 01 May 2013.
Weinberger, David. Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room. New York: Basic, 2011. Print.