Few years back when I was with my earlier organisation, an IT major at the cutting edge of technology, we used to have a monthly meeting with team leads of different projects. Every meeting, one of the team leads had to talk briefly on a particular technology or a technical aspect. After that the Director would wax eloquently about the upcoming technologies like 4G/5G, Connected cars, Digital life, Big Data, AI etc. and that how lucky we were to be in the midst of the next ‘revolution’.
Frankly, at the risk of sounding retrograde, old school or plainly out of sync and ruffling a few feathers of the techie readers, I felt the opposite. I felt and still feel that we are going down a sinkhole of technology, too much of technology.
Seems like we are no longer living in ether space but in a sea of wi-fi. Always connected, GPS’d (located) and updated at all times. We eat and drink data, sleep in the internet and dream in the ethernet. We are stuck on the grid like a prey on the spider’s web.
Ever since the technology has boomed and the internet speeds skyrocketed, we have been sucked into the never ending vicious circle. More the internet speeds, more content or data we consume and the more we consume, the more we pay for the data consumption! Consequently, the telecom and the OTT service providers and the ISPs are laughing all the way to the banks.
They have successfully hooked us on to fancy mobile phones, gadgets and the consequent data consumption. The techies or the geeks particularly take pleasure in wallowing in technology. I know geeks who proudly proclaim that they live their life in the IDEs.
Of-course, the companies are driven by business and they salivate at every possible business opportunity, no complaints there. My grudge is against too much use and dependence on technology. Let’s run through a few examples here:
1. AI Assistant
The Amazon Echo uses Alexa, Amazon’s voice control system to listen to your commands and fulfill them. Have we become so busy, lazy or dumb that we need assistants to do our daily routine jobs?? It can play music tracks for you, dim lights, create a to-do list and of-course order some stuff on Amazon! Naturally, it would be connected to the internet at all times and gobble gigabits of data!
Why can’t we see through the game here? The more dependent we become on these gadgets the more dumb and helpless we get and we still pay for it. Why do we need a AI assistant to tell us what to do, create a shopping list, remind us of birthdays and what not….? This beats me.
2. Digital Life
Another amazing phrase or a concept. It is being touted as if you would achieve Nirvana if you live the digital life. I remember watching this marketing video which depicted the digital life. It showed, you could remotely lock or unlock your home doors, move your window curtains, control the lights, control the temperature of your home, turn on and off the water tap, basically control almost every gadget or machine that can be connected to the internet. Now I don’t want to sound a spoil sport but what happens in the event of a malware attack or the internet simply goes down for a couple of hours?? This brings us to the third and more worrying example…
3. IoT (Internet of Things)
As the name suggests, they are planning to connect almost every conceivable thing to the internet and to have them ‘talk’ to each other as well. The ‘thing’ here means mobiles, gadgets, home appliances, vehicles, sensors, actuators and transplants. According to Wiki, by 2020, the IoT could consist of roughly 30 billion objects. It also estimates the global market value of IoT to reach $7.1 trillion by 2020! Maybe humans too would become one of the IoT if they put transplants in us. Each of us could have an IP address then!
The connected car for example, would turn on the engine and the AC few minutes before you board the car so that the temperature inside is just right. As soon as you are seated, perhaps it could list out the things you need to buy from the grocery, provide you updates on the weather and traffic, remind you of a meeting or the upcoming dates to pay up your bills, the list is endless. Wouldn’t you rather just sit in the car, turn on your favorite music and just drive away instead of listening to irritating endless babble?
But wait, there is something more scarier coming our way…
4. Artificial intelligence (AI)
An obscene amount of data is being collected and crunched every day by the social media sites, search engines and the ISPs. The creative techies have written and continue to write awesome algorithms that enable the computers or the devices they reside in to constantly learn and improve on their own. They call it machine learning. The algorithms find out patterns in our behavior, find out likes, dislikes and traits and accordingly present us with suggestions on what to buy, what to eat, which movies to watch and so on.
The problem with AI starts when the machine starts developing its own logic and judgement and down the line there are chances that it would simply get out of hand. As an example, if you need to go to the airport to catch a flight in an autonomous car and for some reason you start late and instruct the car to take the best possible route and speed up, you could end up with a siren blaring police vehicle on your back.
On the other hand, if it decides to obey the traffic lights and rules, effectively means it is developing its own judgement and logic. Think about it, as it develops on that logic one day, it would start arguing and ultimately override you. Still worse, if the AI technology falls into unwanted hands, you have a sure-shot recipe for Armageddon.
Now am not completely against technology. Let us use it on need basis like weather forecasting, diagnostics, research, simulations [or WordPress blogs 🙂 ] etc. But when it comes to our personal lives, shouldn’t we be better off on our own deciding what to do, what to buy, what to eat and what to watch? Shouldn’t we be driving our own cars and riding our own bikes? Why do we need some smart alec machine to subtly influence or dictate our lives?
I haven’t even touched the topic of ‘privacy’ here. Would be happy to know your thoughts.
Can’t help but sum up the addiction and dependence on technology with these apt lyrics from Def leppard’s White Lightening:
You wanna leave but you can’t let go
You wanna stop but you can’t say no
You’ll never laugh about it
You just can’t live without it
You had enough but you just want more
You never get what you’re lookin’ for
You’ll never laugh about it, never…