Modern life is greatly impacted by the proliferation of technology. Across the world, more and more people are using technology both at work and at home. In a report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project called “Networked Families,” “96% of employed Americans use the internet, email, or a cellphone in ‘some way’” (Greenwood 1). Another study conducted by the same researchers points out the prevalence of technology in the household. The alarming rate at which technology is becoming more prevalent should raise concerns about how modern life will be affected. While humans may be able to connect over long distances, face-to-face connection can be completely ignored. Technology may allow for some level of connections between humans, such as social media or FaceTime with friends and family. However, technology does not provide an effective medium for people to form meaningful connections because it overwhelms humans, allows for avoidance of social interaction, and creates ethical issues involving human relationships.
Technology overwhelms humans, causing people to miss social opportunities. Well-published author Chuck Klosterman compares the influx of work caused by technology to zombies. He says, “Zombie killing is philosophically similar to reading and deleting 400 work e-mails on a Monday morning or filling out paperwork that only generates more paperwork, or following Twitter gossip out of obligation, or performing tedious tasks in which the only true risk is being consumed by the avalanche” (Klosterman 20). Because of the ceaseless stimulus, people do not have the time to be able to form meaningful connections with others. Any kind of activity, including maintaining connections, requires energy that is obtained by sleeping at night. Technology can inhibit peoples’ ability to be able to get this energy. According to Jocelyne Matar Boumosleh of the Notre Dame University, a study including 688 students found that, “prevalence rates of smartphone-related compulsive behavior, functional impairment, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms were substantial. 35.9% felt tired during daytime due to late-night smartphone use, 38.1% acknowledged decreased sleep quality, and 35.8% slept less than four hours due to smartphone use more than once” (Boumosleh 1). Often, school work is associated with students losing sleep, causing students the next day to just go through the motions, however the culprit might actually be technology. Because of technology, humans can become tired and unable to sustain meaningful connections because they do not have the energy to do so anymore.
Not only does technology overwhelm humans with work, technology also allows for the avoidance of social interactions. Instead of forming meaningful connections with other humans, one can stare at their screen even when surrounded by dozens of people. According to Jake, a high school student suffering from anxiety profiled by the New York times, technology “was a way for [him] not to think about classes and college, not have to talk to people” (Denizet-Lewis 8). Photographer Eric Pickersgill further builds upon the isolating power of technology through his series of photos called “Removed.” He took pictures of people using phones and edited out the phones, creating powerful emotions, such as sadness, in the viewers. In the pictures, there are multiple people who are staring down at their devices while being with others. As Steve Mollman, a journalist of the Quartz and recipient of multiple publishing rewards, notes that people are “often ignoring beautiful surroundings or opportunities for human connection” (Pickersgill 36). Increasingly, humans are getting caught up in their digital life, ignoring the potential to grow meaningful connections in person, causing a negative effect on human relations. The effect of cell phones on relationships is well known. However, some effects of technology may not be so obvious. Due to the growth in technology, some jobs may be replaced by AI. This can affect the people who lose their jobs not only financially, but also socially. Mr. Kim, an AI ethicist, says when his dad retired from his job as a noodle factory worker, “He got money, but he lost community and self-respect” (Miller 24). Without a job, Mr. Kim’s father is unable to sustain meaningful connections with his community as a whole, as he is now isolated from society. This can happen in increasing frequency due to the proliferation of technology in modern society, harming meaningful connections between an individual and their community.
With the proliferation of technology, ethical discussions involving human and AI relationships have become increasingly more common. Some argue that AI can make people falsely believe that they are having legitimate relationships. A study involving language and social interaction in autistic children discovered that they respond better to an AI instead of an actual person. This may seem positive, until one looks at the potential dangers this can pose. John W. Miller cites Professor of Philosophy Alexis Elder who argues, “The hazard involves these robots’ potential to present the appearance of friendship to a population who cannot tell the difference between real and fake friends” (Miller 26). Would this connection be genuine if one party, the AI, does not actually have human emotions? The AI cannot genuinely reciprocate human emotions toward someone, making the connection one-sided and disingenuous. This predicament is not only occurring with friendships, but also with romance. Sex robots are a recent game changer for the dynamics of human romantic relationships. This technology is advertised to people lacking romantic connections. As John W. Miller, a writer for America, observes, “Makers of new lines of artificial intelligence dolls costing over $10,000 each claim, as one ad says, to ‘deliver the most enjoyable conversation and interaction you can have with a machine’” (Miller 26). Technology can inhibit people from making real connections with other humans as there is no need to if their perfect match at home catering to their every need.
While technology may not be an effective medium for human connection, there are some benefits it can provide. Both families and work members can be more connected through technology. With emails and texting, co-workers can better communicate and efficiently work toward a common goal. At home, technology can be used by families to bond, such as watching a movie on Netflix together. Even video games, an infamously debated topic, can bring people around the world together to form meaningful relationships. Gamers can gather in a convention, such as the upcoming PAX West convention. Greg Miller, founder of pop culture internet channel, argues that video games allow for fellow gamers, including those with disabilities, to bond over their shared passion (Miller 3). Video games provide a common ground for human connection between all kinds of people, including those with disabilities. In multiple types of situations, technology can be a helpful tool in order to maintain and grow significant relationships.
The impact of technology cannot be restricted to either being “good” or “bad.” Technology can allow for and prohibit people to form meaningful connections. Thousands across the world can connect with each other through a simple click on a screen. However, the potential consequences of technology outweigh the benefits. Many can disconnect from people in real life, opting to go on social media instead of spending time with people in real life. Humans can make superficial connections with robots whilst neglecting real connections with others. Therefore, it is best for people to turn off their screens, to go out and discover the vast world that is waiting for them. It might not be easy to cut down on screen time, but the potential meaningful connections are priceless.
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Pickersgill, Eric. “Removed.” The Atlantic, 2015.
There is no denying that the capability of technology has skyrocketed in the last decade. With the proliferation of computers and phones, there is no telling what could be next. A robot powered by Artificial Intelligence that cooks for you or a car you do not have to pilot may come off appealing, but this significant advancement in technology is causing concern. Is it going to be beneficial or harmful? With the development of A.I. and self-driving cars rising so quickly, upcoming technology will diminish human dignity by performing intellectual tasks for them. Furthermore, by replacing humans, technology is putting them at risk for job loss, as well as decreasing development of social skills.
With developing technology, we as humans are at risk for job loss. In the article, “The Creeping Ethical Challenges of Artificial Intelligence”, author John Miller explains how A.I. is being developed to mimic human mannerisms and reasoning skills. A.I. ethicist Tae Wan Kim says that “the current technological revolution is different because it is the first to replicate intellectual skills” (Miller 24). If robots can now do the same tasks involving logic and understanding as humans, jobs such as counselors, therapists, teachers, and even doctors are at risk of replacement. Why go through the process of hiring a human that is eligible to make mistakes when you can buy a seemingly “perfect” robot that will do the same job with no error? Mr. Kim explains that “this kind of automation could create a permanently underemployed class of people” (Miller 24). With the new development of self driving cars, occupations such as cab, taxi, bus, and limo drivers are also at risk. Miller says that “the most common jobs for American men are behind the wheel” (MIller 25). With the advancement of self driving cars, there would be no need for humans to drive other humans around when the cars could do it themselves.
Customer experience futurist Blake Morgan wrote the article “What Is the Netflix Effect?” explaining the effect Netflix has on other companies and the entertainment industry as a whole. Morgan writes, “consumers can stream content instantly to any device, anywhere” (Morgan 1). Since users can now watch any movie or TV show right from their phone or TV, movie theaters are at risk of becoming outdated. Why drive to a movie theater when the movie you want to see is just a click away? Because of this, not only will movie theaters and their workers lose money and or jobs, large film companies will have to learn to adapt their marketing strategies to make sure their movie gets advertised enough that consumers will see it when it is not on Netflix.
Technology is also being advanced to replicate human feelings and emotions. John Miller also explains in his article how incoming human populations are at risk of suffering from under-developed social skills. Philosopher Alexis Elder says that “the hazard involves these robots’ potential to present the appearance of friendship to a population” (Miller 26). Kids in younger generations that will grow up with these advanced A.I.s may not learn how to interact with other humans as well as those in older generations. Children learn most of what they know from watching how others interact, and if that interaction is between robots that are just mimicking human habits, the kids may not develop strong social skills. Although these robots are “copying” human communication skills and emotions, it is not the same as talking to a human with life experience.
Some argue that since technology would be taking jobs, there is less need for humans to go into work, because they could do most of the work from home or on a device. Less time in the office could lead to more time to do enjoyable things like spending time with family and or hobbies. However, Tae Wan Kim also argues in Miller’s article that “you get so many other things out of work like community, character development, intellectual stimulation and dignity” (Miller 24). A big part of the benefits of commuting to a work place is the collaboration that it forces people to take part in. This helps develop social skills that are going to be used in day to day life. Taking away the opportunity to go to work and be around other humans, further erodes the ability to develop human connections.
Social worker Amy Morin wrote the article “10 Reasons Teens Have So Much Anxiety Today”, in which she explains different factors that play into the anxiety in today's teens, one being technology. She writes “constant access to digital devices lets kids escape uncomfortable emotions” (Morin 1). She is arguing that since teens today always have a phone in their pocket, they can easily avoid dealing with emotions that cause discomfort such as stress, sadness, or anxiety. Instead of going to a parent to talk about an issue they are having, they will go straight to social media or to a game to “relieve their stress” (Morin 1). This generation of teens have lost opportunities to establish coping mechanisms and strategies since electronics have taken over the place of communicating face to face with somebody about an issue. Some teens abuse the privilege of technology to either harm others, or make their situation worse. Kids are not being able to develop methods to deal with their struggles, which they will need in the real world. When these kids go out on their own, they will be behind those that have learned to deal and cope with their stress and anxiety.
Both job loss and undeveloped social skills are a huge risk to the advancing technology approaching us. There is not just one way to stop this technological progression, rather humans need to recognize that these long term effects have the potential to be fatal for coming generations. This way, we can see the writing on the wall before it is too late. Precautions such as limiting A.I.’s development and interpretation of humans can be put in place in order to help “save” a generation of unemployed and socially behind people.
Miller, John W. "THE CREEPING ETHICAL CHALLENGES OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE:
Technology is already bending our perceptions of the world around us." America, 12 Nov. 2018, p. 20+. Gale One File Religion and Philosophy, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A565200790/PPRP?u=mlin_s_weyhs&sid=PPRP&xid=15d24f04. Accessed 17 Aug. 2019.
Gale Document Number: GALE|A565200790
Morgan, Blake. “What is the Netflix Effect?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 26 June 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2019/02/19/what-is-the-netflix-effect/#1f328732560
Morin, Amy. “Health, Help, Happiness Find a Therapist.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/.
Do you have a smartphone with you right now? While most people today would answer yes, this was not the case 20 years ago. New technology has been rapidly introduced into the world whether it is wanted or not. Some may argue that this technology is improving the quality of life and making the world a better place, but there is a lot more to it. Though technology can increase efficiency, productivity, and sometimes even safety, the consequences outweigh the benefits. According to former senior researcher for Pew Research Center, Mary Madden, and Pew researcher Sydney Jones from their article “Networked Workers”, “96% of employed Americans use the internet, email, or a cell phone ‘in some way’” (Greenwood). From work to social media, today’s world revolves around technology. The impact of modern technology is increasing every day as new technologies are developed. With new technology comes higher expectations on students and working adults. The article “Networked Workers” also reveals, “of the 96% of workers who use communications technology in some way, nearly half say they are expected to work more hours and deal with more stress,” (Greenwood). Though its impact is significant, stress is not the only downfall of technology. The consequences of technological proliferation that pose the greatest challenges to society are loss of jobs, invasion of privacy, and potential harm to physical and mental health.
Technological proliferation has taken and will continue to replace a number of human jobs with machines. While technology has allowed for cheaper and more efficient work, this has resulted in more and more humans are finding themselves unemployed. Jobs from taxi drivers to factory workers are being replaced by technology. According to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, taxi trips in Los Angeles, California declined by 30% from 2012 to 2016 since the early 2013 introduction of Uber and Lyft (Nelson). The idea of a self-driving car could potentially be safer and reduce crashes, but it has its downfalls. According to former staff reporter and foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, John Miller, from his article published in America, “the most common jobs for American men are behind the wheel” (Miller). Many Americans make a living off of driving taxis and trucks. The ridesharing company Uber currently has 3 million drivers globally. (Much Needed) If all forms of ridesharing and human-driven vehicles were eliminated and replaced by self-driving cars these three million people plus taxi drivers, truck drivers, and delivery people would lose their jobs. A.I. ethicist at Carnegie Mellon University, Tae Wan Kim, talks about technology destroying jobs in Miller’s article. He says, “A.I. ethicists say the current technological revolution is different because it is the first to replicate intellectual tasks. This kind of automation could create a permanently underemployed class of people,” (Miller). Instead of trying to decrease the unemployment rate, technology is causing it to climb. The more new technology created, the more jobs can be replaced. Blake Morgan, contributor to Forbes and the Harvard Business Review, has written multiple articles on the negative effects of technology. In her article “Robots Will Take Our Jobs And We Need A Plan”, she presents research from McKinsey Digital. The research shows that, “45% of current jobs can be automated,” (Morgan). Automated jobs are beneficial to large companies because they do not have to pay robots like they would humans in order to get the work done. As long as the availability of technology continues to increase, it will continue to take the jobs of humans.
In addition to decreasing job availability, new technology has allowed for new ways to invade privacy. Companies like Netflix use the data they track in order to improve the quality of experience for their users and make their product catered to specific individuals. While it may sound beneficial, it is a little unsettling to think that they’re tracking everything one watches. In another article written by Morgan, “What Is The Netflix Effect?”, she says, “Netflix grows its number of subscribers by around 10% a year and now has an estimated more than 59 million subscribers in the U.S. alone” (Morgan). Although companies are improving their experience for users, it makes one wonder what other data they could be collecting without anyone knowing. Netflix is not the only company doing so. In Miller’s article, he mentions the effect A.I. collecting data on people could have in the future. He says, “in one dystopian scenario, a government could deny health care or other public benefits to people deemed to engage in ‘bad’ behavior, based on the data recorded by social media companies and gadgets like Fitbit” (Miller). While these devices may help people keep track of their health, who is to say that the data collected will not be used against them later? In addition to compromising private health data, using technology allows hackers a way into the private lives of those using self-driving cars. According to an article written by Digital Trends, “maps can be remotely manipulated by crafty hackers” (Digital Trends). As long as technology is being used, nothing is safe from hackers. Private lives are becoming less and less private as new technologies come about.
The most unsettling consequence of the increase in technology in today’s world is the potential physical harm it can bring to humans. Technologies such as power plants that help run cities of the world could also cause their downfalls. When a tsunami caused by a massive earthquake in Japan damaged nuclear technology, nuclear waste was leaked into the ocean. The haiku “Lingering Grief” written by Jacquie Pearce won the League of Canadian Poets’ National Haiku Contest. The poem states, “lingering grief.../ a trace of Fukushima/ in the salmon” (Pearce 1-3). The ocean is a major food source for the whole world and this accident potentially poisoned some of it. According to the United Nations, “over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods” (United Nations). Using certain technology to attain high efficiency in industries is not worth risking one of the most valued sources of food. More accidents like Fukushima are bound to occur as long as more technology continues to be introduced. Additionally, technology meant to increase safety, such as self-driving cars, can actually increase danger. According to the Digital Trends article, “at a 2013 technology conference in Las Vegas, researchers demonstrated how the computers in driverless cars can be hacked to make them drive erratically and dangerously” (Digital Trends). The more technology implemented into people’s everyday lives, the more opportunity there is for hackers. According to a report written by Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie from Pew Research Center “digital users who have not lived without technology will not know how to cope with utilizing resources outside of solely tech,” (Anderson and Rainie). Kids who are growing up in the world of modern technology do not know any different. They are raised with the ability to hide behind a screen and control virtually every aspect of their lives due to their smartphones. Social settings will become more and more difficult for kids who are not used to the lack of control in the real world. The potential for harm induced by technology will continue to increase in the coming years.
The rapid pace at which technology is taking over the world is alarming. Humans are creating things with the hopes of making their lives easier, but in reality, they are inflicting harm upon themselves. Today’s world is so fast-paced that any new technology that offers efficiency will help large industries grow. While industries are growing, jobs that require humans are declining in number. Everything that people do becomes data for companies to use to make more money off of them. Privacy is becoming less and less relevant as virtually all of everyone’s information is somewhere on the internet waiting to be found. The world is putting making money over its own health and wellbeing. As humans become more like machines in the way they operate, their role in the modern world is becoming less important. Machines are becoming more human than humans themselves.
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