Technophobes have misplaced their fear in technology, when what they really should fear are… the humans! That’s true, unless you believe, like Cellarious (that is, Samuel Butler), in “Darwin among the beasts”—that machines will replace humans as the superior being on earth. Back in 1863, he was saying, “Day by day we are becoming more subservient to them, more men are daily bound as slaves to tend them” (Wikipedia-Darwin Among the Machines). It’s the same speech, only quite fancier, as that relative or friend who distrusts technology and mouths off, “You’re a slave to your phone. Go see the world.”
That’s the modern technophobia—that it hides us from reality and isolates us into separate units, head down and comatose, staring into a screen. But people have used other things to conveniently isolate themselves at times.
Newspapers are wider and easier to hide behind. So unless you want to go back and tell Johannes Gutenberg to “hold it!” on inventing the printing press, then you must acknowledge the true crux: Humans, by nature and for various reasons, isolate themselves and use whatever prop, whether it be a phone or newspaper, to separate themselves. It’s the humans, not the technology, who are to blame.
Technology, just because it is man-made, does not offer a categorically different experience of reality. Actually, at its best, technology enables the communication of the human experience. First books, (danke, Johannes) then movies and television shows, video games too, all offer a mind’s, or a collaboration of minds’ take on reality and their values in it, and broadcasts it widely so others can experience and understand the same. And commercial technology lets humans efficiently finish business processes and focus back on other humans. If our technology’s motive is for the betterment of humans, then we are not slaves to technology. Instead, we use it as a tool in better service to each other.
The movie “Her” depicts a foreseeable future for technology. Not that I necessarily know that level of artificial consciousness is possible, the movie still insightfully examines human’s relation to technology in general. Rather than envisioning a technological apocalypse, it showed of balance between people on their phones, and people with their families and friends, laughing and watching street performers dance. In fact, the main character first uses technology to isolate himself, but as he opens up to others, he uses it to connect in a more meaningful way.
We will always, no matter how prevalent technology becomes, have the option to focus on the people around us. It might even make it better. Movies teach us things we realize we felt but didn’t know, so we can treat ourselves and others accordingly. Information Technology is creating a vibrant and intuitive customer experience that adds life and returns us to our communities faster, now aided by our products and services. Skype connects us across distance in a more intimate way than ever before. We learn to appreciate being with others more than ever, and we can tell them face-to-face.
In fact, that’s the note that “Her” ends on, beautifully. LIGHT SPOILER: Joaquin Phoenix’s character tells the consciousness “Samantha,” an advance in technology herself, “I’ve never loved anyone like I’ve loved you.” She responds, “Me too.” What she adds, though, shows technology’s potential to be good for others, even today. She says, “Now we know how.” Sometimes, technology helps us learn to know how to love.