Manifesto: Jessie Abell

We should not encourage our children to develop relationships with robotic toys because in doing so, we set them up for dependency on technology and inauthentic relationships with human beings.
When we encourage children to develop relationships with robotic toys, we begin to facilitate a mentality of dependency. Children learn to depend on their robotic toys for companionship and begin to think that relationships with robots can substitute for relationships with human beings. When children develop relationships with robots, they “are learning a way of feeling connected in which they have permission to think only of themselves,” which will degrade the quality of their human relationships (Turkle 60). Similarly, when a child “becomes accustomed to ‘companionship’ without demands, life with people may seem overwhelming. Dependence on a person is risky—it makes us subject to rejection—but it also opens us to deeply knowing another” (Turkle 66). Robotic toys could take away a child’s capability to “deeply know” another human being.

I adopted this principle because so much of our consciousness, morals, and values, are shaped during our childhood. I believe that if society adopted this principle, then we could begin to alleviate some of the negative effects of technology that have begun to pervade our society, particularly regarding the degradation of authentic relationships.

We should include this principle in our collective manifesto because thinking about the way we allow and encourage our children to interact with technology could greatly improve their and future generations’ lives.

  • Alone Together, Sherry Turkle.

We should not allow students to use laptops in classroom situations in which they only need a computer for note taking.
I do not bring a laptop to any of my classes because all of them revolve around discussion and note taking. In this circumstance, I do not think that professors should allow their students to bring laptops to class. Unless students require a computer to complete classwork, I think that computers provide little more than unnecessary distraction. In every single course I’ve taken in which students use their computer to “take notes,” in actuality, the large majority of them are simply browsing the web. In addition, many studies show that “the physical act of writing really does boost learning and goal achievement” (Pinola).

I adopted this principle because I think that as technology advances, we as a society tend to think of each new technology as “better” than the last and as better than the “old way” of doing things. For example, many people now consider e-readers better than paper books because e-readers are more compact, convenient, and have cheaper books. However, I do not think that we should automatically consider every single technology as offering a “better” way of doing things than the traditional way.

We should include this principle in our collective manifesto because good education is such an important element of a successful society. I think that thoughtfully considering whether some technologies actually decrease productivity, especially in a classroom setting, will lead to more responsible consideration of technologies in other aspects of life.

We ought to cease working towards transhumanism because “the loss of human biological limits is the loss of our humanity” (Munkittrick).
I think of transhumanism as the scariest possibility in regards to future technological advancements. It saddens me that our society fears death so intensely that we think we should try to circumvent it. Death is a necessary part of life and so intrinsically part of humanity that I truly think when we can no longer die, we will no longer be human. I think transhumanism will start with minor adjustments to human biology but could eventually lead to completely non-human robots. I think that we ought to cease working towards tranhumanism because through it, we will lose our humanity.

I adopted this principle because, while transhumanism may sound futuristic and far-fetched now, I think that it will be a real possibility in the future and that we need to seriously consider the implications of this effort now. I believe that with so many technological advancements, we don’t stop to consider the sociological effects until after the fact, at which time the technology has already been fully assimilated into our culture.

We should include this principle in our collective manifesto because it is imperative that we encourage people to seriously consider the implications and consequences of working towards transhumanism before the effort achieves major “successes.”

We should encourage children, adolescents, and adults to learn the benefits of being alone; otherwise, “we risk losing the capacity for the kind of solitude that energizes and restores” (Turkle).
I think of solitude as such an incredibly rewarding experience. Learning to be alone allows us to know ourselves better, have healthier relationships, gain confidence, and experience things for ourselves. In our constant attachment to technology, we lose the capacity to experience this kind of solitude.

To explain why I adopted this principle, I want to talk about a personal experience. After I graduated high school, I spent the summer before my first semester of college traveling a bit with money I had saved up. I spent a month in London, where I stayed with an aunt of mine who attended LSE at the time. As she was in school, I spent the majority of my time exploring the city on my own. I did not have a cellphone with me for any of the trip because this was before smartphones, so I could only use mine for phone calls, and couldn’t do that overseas. That trip was the last time that I remember being truly alone with no cellphone to distract me, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I experienced the kind of solitude that really does “energize and restore” your psyche. I got lost so many times, which led me to amazing places and people that I never would have found if I had used a smartphone for directions. I experienced historical sites and travel and solitude in such a beautiful way—I can’t find words elegant enough to describe how deeply this experience changed me. I don’t think young people or adults experience this kind of solitude anymore.

We should include this principle in our collective manifesto because learning to experience solitude will enrich people’s lives in innumerable ways and will also lead people to consider the benefits of not staying so constantly connected to technology.

We should reconsider our perception of Google as “neutral” and realize that it is “a publically-traded, revenue-driven firm” and that “it’s dangerous because of our increasing, uncritical faith in and dependence on it” (Vaidhyanathan 4).
As people begin to think of Google as almost synonymous with the internet, and as we use Google on a daily basis as more than just a search engine (as a phone service, map service, news service, source of any information, etc.), we need to remember that Google is a “revenue-driven firm” and not a neutral entity. The perception of Google as neutral allows the company to violate people’s privacy and then “correct” the violation after the fact. We allow Google access to our email, browsing habits, shopping habits, and the ability to track everything we do through their or an affiliated site.

I adopted this principle because thinking of Google or any other internet-based revenue-driven firm as neutral is dangerous. In accepting their increasingly invasive practices as the standard, we open the door for other companies to follow suit.

We should include this principle in our collective manifesto because it would serve us well to educate the public to understand exactly what companies like Google store on people when using their services.

  • The Googlization of Everything, Siva Vaidhyanathan.

We should not accept the notion of privacy as a convention of the past.
In an interview with Andrew Keen for TechCrunch, Sherry Turkle talks about Mark Zuckerberg’s comment that “privacy is part of the discourse of the past.” She says, “I think it may be convenient for social networks to not have privacy, but I think that…What is intimacy without privacy? What is democracy without privacy? I think we’re starting to live in a world where things like that get said, but increasingly, we’re going to say, ‘no’.” We need to think of privacy as not only a necessary component of our lives, but as our fundamental right.

I adopted this principle because I agree with Turkle that “we have to start to reclaim and to teach our children the value of something like privacy.” I think that the general public has started to feel like in order to use services like Google and Facebook, they inevitably must sacrifice their own privacy rights. And while, like Turkle says, it’s convenient for a social network to perpetuate the idea that we don’t need privacy, we need to realize the inaccuracy in that statement. We do need privacy, and if we make these companies realize that we’re not willing to use their product unless we retain privacy, then they won’t succeed.

We should include this principle in our collective manifesto because when we realize the value of privacy as an essential component of our society and as a fundamental right, then we allow ourselves power to determine how technological-based companies treat us. I also think that if we encourage people to remember that privacy is not a “convention of the past,” they will begin to more thoughtfully consider how other technologies degrade the value of privacy.