Shannon Yen - Manifesto

1. Humans should remember that technological advancement is not the end-all save-all of human progress.

As Kelly argues in his book What Technology Wants, billions of years past have proven the benefits of human invention, such as “the alphabet, the steam pump, or electricity,” and we don’t like to argue against longevity or Microsoft Word. Kelly claims that we may solve “new problems of today” by creating “new choices,” and as a whole, society seems to work under that mindset—that if we find a problem, we just fix it. If that fix causes other problems, we fix those problems, etc. That type of cyclical process persuades one to think that we need to remain, as a society, wary of seeing only solution within technology.

Pollution came as a by-product of coal-mining and the ever-necessary electricity we so often use these days, and we can certainly fund research for LED lights and electric vehicles. But what we should remember is that many of our solutions and “advancements” come with caveats and disadvantages, something that even Kelly acknowledges when he talks about industrial-scale slavery and the extinction of “80% of all large mammal genera” (34).

By retaining a certain caution when it comes to the utmost optimism concerning technology, we may more directly and objectively direct technology in directions we want to proceed. Views affect our actions, and therefore, our view of technological advancement must remain cautious and clear as the very basic founding block upon which to address technological innovation.

Source: Kelly, Kevin. What Technology Wants. New York: The Penguin Book, 2010. Print.

2. As a society, we ought to take advantage of the global communion that technology provides by learning to make ourselves more open-minded and compassionate.

Having a new ability to befriend all sorts of people across countries and oceans opens enormous potential for diversifying with cultures and people that we normally might never know. When Clay Shirky expounds on his wonder at the way people come together to network, he talks about “societies with markets” that “provide people with the experience of interacting with strangers” (111)—and not just any strangers, but ones that vary so exponentially from each other that to interact online is to travel cross-continents and experience the norms of strangers.

Essentially, the Internet makes us more open-minded to other kinds of people. With anonymity, we judge less on appearances. Disregarding the negative aspects of online personas for the purposes of this normative statement, we have strangers behind computer screens who do not necessarily see each other—thus forging relationships from pure conversation and the exchange of ideas.

One thing noticeable about online communities, such as gaming ones or Youtube or Facebook, is that you can be”friend” what we once would have termed “strangers.” Already, our views change on this aspect; some of us may not even say Hi to someone in person that we may be “friends” with on Facebook, and people who meet while gaming become “friends” while never meeting face to face.

This blurring of boundaries allows us opportunities to familiarize with unfamiliar people, learning acceptance of differences when faced with so many. Such a mindset creates livelier and more open-minded characters, because if we must interact in a global community, we ought to understand how to get there. We can’t get there with stiffness regarding cultural or racial differences, and what better way to work around those than by blurring lines?

Sources: Shirky, Clay. Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. New York: The Penguin Group, 2010. Print.; Yen, Shannon. Wiki Response/Experiment in Ethnographies. 2011.

3. 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.

Sources: 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.

4. We should remember who sits behind the computer programs and algorithims.

While Kevin Kelly creates an entire book on arguing for the growing sentience and desire of technology, it might prove adviseable to take that with a grain of salt. By separating society from the engineers generating this technology within the computer chip, we lose our connection with those engineers—as if they were separate humans from “society.”

We should not view Google as pushing us to search for Justin Bieber, but attempting to anticipate—in essence, showing off its catalog of information by predicting—what we want. The result of this success comes perceived as “free will,” but to remember that it remains, first and foremost, as a program created within the mind of another human. Collaborations, research, and experiments contribute to the overall inclination towards technological advancement, and it would behoove society to remember its place in this scale. We push, therefore it goes, otherwise, what sort of touch screens or cellphones would exist?

Consumerism is driven by marketability, and inventors create when there is a market for it. Computers do not advance or operate on their own, and neither do they update or progress to faster and smaller on their own. Whether or not Kelly proves correct with the trend (Moore’s Law) towards self-sustaining technology, we should remember that we sat behind the Power button that made it go. Keeping that in mind could not only empower us as a society, but force us to direct it with a stronger and more responsible hand.

Source: Kelly, Kevin. What Technology Wants. New York: The Penguin Book, 2010. Print.

5. People should actively stay aware of how technology affects them, mentally and externally.

Google owns the world; we know. But how do we respond? We pretend that they don’t track us or use personal information—and when they do, we feel outraged and betrayed. But why? No privacy laws exist for Internet use, and we should remember to indulge in online use with caution.

The fact remains that software companies seem to prioritize advertising, and for that, we need to stay aware of what is tracked on our use of the Internet. Not only that, but Nicholas Carr claims the Internet has immense capability in completely rewiring our brains—as he put it, to use Google again, the company is “in the business of distractions.” These “distractions” teach our brains to jump from one thing to another, to multitask and make split-second decisions—all of which Carr fears takes away reflective thinking.

If we learn to stay cautious of personal privacy over the Internet, by staying aware of what and how the Web keeps track of us, we can alleviate paranoia of privacy violations. In the same vein, we need to remember that our minds prove malleable and therefore vulnerable to how we treat it—the Internet being just one way we dose it with wire-altering experiences. It affects us, not doubt, but as participants in an evolvingly intimate relationship with technology, we ought to know what we get ourselves into so that we can enter with clear and assertive minds.

Sources: Carr, Nicholas. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. W.W. Norton &
Company: New York, 2010.; http://www.slate.com/id/2290719; http://www.slate.com/id/2277297?wpisrc=obinsite

6. Humans ought to direct technological advancements toward solving problems such as conservation of natural resources and elimination of diseases.

Kelly introduces the concept of beauty that humans retain as “biophilia, an innate attraction to living things” (319). With that attraction comes the requisite Nature world that seems to disappear faster than we can control. As pollution ascends and landfills continue, nuclear disasters threaten, and gas goes up, our society feels first-hand the urgency that builds from natural resource depletion. Other issues such as AIDs and cancer also continue to plague our concerns and fears, so that while we marvel at the wonders of today, we also begin looking for solutions to keep our marvels cycling.

With technology’s promise, we should harness its potential to solve elevating problems. If we progress by giving ourselves newer, faster, and better gadgets, we should also look to technology’s capabilities in experiments of electric vehicles, solar and wind power, nanoparticles and gene therapy. By looking towards technology this way, not only do we view it in a brighter and more optimistic light, but we focus our endeavors involving it towards making our society safer and cleaner. In other words, efficiency should not sit as the goal of our progress and research into technological advancement, but the betterment of the society needed to co-evolve with technology. It should be our support and vice versa, which is one of the only ways to view technology in a world quickly deepening its affair with it.

Source: Kelly, Kevin. What Technology Wants. New York: The Penguin Book, 2010. Print.