Manifesto: Anne Cunha

1. Technology ought not be used to substitute for humanity’s ability to work and think freely.

It is happening all around us. Technology is being used to take over jobs and activities that humans typically perform. ATM’s have become the norm and are essentially making bank tellers obsolete. Bank tellers are a thing of the past. The only banking jobs that have not been taken over by machines are those positions that give specialized and personalized information to individual customers. It seems the people typically prefer going to the self-check out registers in the grocery store rather than having to deal with an actual person. Usually it is simply due to a person’s individual preference whether they use the self-check out or not, but it still seems like technology is taking over more and more jobs humans usually perform. Consumers are not really making the transition very difficult either simply because more often than not, people prefer technology to having to deal with an actual person. People have assumed that even if technology takes over job, it would only take over mundane jobs; but a story on NPR suggests that technology can eliminate higher-skilled jobs, the jobs that require a higher level of thinking. People used to be able to take comfort in the idea that there were some jobs that it would be impossible for robotic technologies to take over, but we are quickly being proved wrong.

2. Humans should always be in control of technology, not letting technology control itself.

In class we have talked about technology one day having the capacity to think for itself and more or less adapt to its environment and add to itself. A lot of people are certain that this will never happen or are really hoping that it won’t. ELIZA is a primitive attempt at artificial intelligence but even this AI needs humans to program it and create code for its responses. Because of this, I believe that humans should and will always be necessary to create and maintain “artificial intelligence” programs. Even if someday there is AI, those programs will still need humans for maintenance and reprogramming. ELIZA was a simulation of what happens when you go to a therapist but without any form of personalized responses. ELIZA could only give yes or no answers that typically are not very helpful. People are skeptical of technology ever being able to “think” for itself. We are comforted by the fact that people are still required to write the programs for these AI’s and that the AI’s only follow the programs we right. It has been talked about that there is now computer code out there that can rewrite itself and change things to adapt to changes around it. This information itself is what sparks the fear of technology being able to control itself.

3.Technology ought not be a surrogate for actual human interaction, companionship and intimacy.

Out there in the vast environment of the World Wide Web, people can find comfort in others who feel and believe the same way that they do. People feel comfortable online because they can be whoever they want to be and nobody will know otherwise. There are online communities for pretty much whatever anyone could be interested in. With the advent of online gaming and gaming communities, more and more people do not even have to venture outside of their homes in order to “interact” with people. These people make friends with the online games that they become a part of. They can create the world that the wish they lived in, therefore actually living a complete fantasy. Online gaming and online communities create the illusion that the members are socializing, without them ever having any contact with each other. They develop pseudo-companionship with the “people” they meet online but this cannot substitute for actual human contact.

Cyber Intimacy

Can We Love Robots

4. Technology should supplement human talents, not create talent where there wasn’t any.

Artificial human enhancement gives unfair advantages over other non-enhanced humans. Transhumanists believe that genetic enhancement can and should be used to make ideal humans in whatever form and with whatever abilities we choose. In this way transhumanists take away motivation to practice and to achieve things naturally because we can simply genetically alter ourselves or take supplements to get the same results with less work. It takes away any satisfaction humans usually get from being persistent and trying to achieve something difficult. This also opens the door for parents to genetically alter their children in the womb in order to make the “ideal” child by whatever standards they choose to use. The idea of transhumanism is just too extreme and becomes an easy way to achieve anything humans can think of without even having to put the effort or work in. Using nanotechnology and other genetic alterations go against mankind’s natural biological predispositions. There is a difference between having inoculations against certain deadly diseases because that helps the advancement of our species. Altering our genetic makeup simply because we can does not seem like a good use of the knowledge we possess.

5. E-books should never completely take the place of traditional books.

Traditional books, in my opinion as a booklover, will always be around. Many people feel it is completely taboo to even think about throwing out a book, for whatever reason. As more and more people begin to go the way of the e-book and e-readers, I have begun to realize how much better it feels to read an actual book. There is just something classic and traditional about having a physical book to hold while you are reading. It is sad to think that one day the youth could not even know what a traditional book looks like. Books could be a foreign concept to them; something they see when the go to history museums. Books in themselves are a form of technology that should not go to the wayside. The library sciences are waning in popularity and usefulness as more and more works are being digitized. Librarians are becoming obsolete, with their traditional field of expertise no longer being needed. I have an e-reader myself but have realized that reading on it is not the same as holding a book in my hands. Reading a paperback book becomes an experience: the way the book smells, how the pages feel. There are memories associated and embedded into the pages of well worn books that just are not there with e-books, and e-books will never have that physical and emotional experience associated with them.

6. Technology should not be thought of as a living and evolving organism part of its own biological kingdom.

Technology does not evolve on its own. Humans are required in order to develop and improve the technology, which they already created. It should be understood that technology comes into existence because of the knowledge of humans. People would not like to think that the technology they created can change and shape itself after its initial creation. The idea that technology could evolve and become its own biological kingdom makes it seem, as though it would come to be viewed as an organic organism. Technology is anything but a natural and organic being. Humans created technology, so if anything it is a branch off of the human mind but still part of the human biological makeup. Humans are wary about technology ever being able to think for itself, and as a result, they are more likely to keep a tight grip on any of our technological advances to make sure they never get out of control. As intriguing as it is to test how far our knowledge and technology can take us, I do not think that humanity wants to one day have to compete with the technology that we originally created.

(Chapter 3; What Technology Wants; Kevin Kelly)