RunningH20

Technology For Lifekind and Not Lifekind For Technology

Technology should enrich our lives and enhance our productivity

"We use technology not to displace human capital with mass manufacturing and automation, but to better leverage available capacity and organize skills to meet this market. Ultimately, that’s meant sustainable, scalable, and dignified work for thousands."
-Ella Peinovich

Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, 3D-printing, manufacturing automation, surveilance, and on. Technology has had a disruptive impact on nearly every aspect of life. Many view this disruption in a negative light and often with a perspective based in fear. A commonly held belief is that technology is more likely to destroy opprtunities of finding and keeping work. Other fears are that the knowledge necessary to utilize and benefit from technology is too difficult or esoteric to attain. Then of course, there are those that are apprehensive that technolgy will be used to subjugate them in some way, or all ways. On an extreme end of these fears is the concern that technology itself will evolve to a level that will surpass and act malevolently towards humans.

While those are legitimate concerns, and not unmitigated, the gold is often missed when dwelling upon these fears, and thinking about all of the ways technology will disrupt the traditional ways of our lives. By focusing on things such as how easily it is for a robot to better and faster perform our manufacturing jobs, or how fast an artificial intelligence can model a financial situation or biological process, we miss the obvious opportunity that it creates regarding where we as human beings can direct our energy, focus, time, and mental resources.

Jobs largely exist as paid tasks because they're, more often than not, things and activities which humans aren't inclined to do. Try to think of the last time you had a burning desire to stack boxes repeatedly for eight to ten hours. Or when you were moved to man a service station and pump gas for the countless amount of cars that pulled in. When was the last time you were so compelled to attend a cash register and enter orders from people over and over that you raced down to your nearest fast food establishment and begged the manager to put you on the schedule? Chances are that you haven't ever.

The point is that most of our jobs exist as things that we're paid to do because we otherwise don't want to do them. Other than being paid for our time (which is truly our most valuable resource, perhaps after health), we have no compelling or legitimate reason to take up the various occupations that we do. The deeper point is that when technology is proven to be sufficient enought to do a mundane task as good as or better than us, or that which is otherwise a waste of our time and energy — we then become free to use our capcities to focus on more productive and fulfilling endeavors.

Since the dawn of humankind, we've probably been using tools and objects that are not biologically engineered into us already. We had the inclination to use a long stick to knock down a tasty coconut from a tree top that we can't reach, we've fashioned wood into a watercraft to cross lakes and traverse rivers, and we've sewn plants together to cover our nakedness. All of that is technology in a sense. Using those resources didn't change what we do, rather it changed how we do the things that we do. It made the methods easier, faster, and more efficient.

THAT is what technology is all about. In its purest, most earnest sense. Technology is an enabler. It levels playing fields, bridges gaps, and provides opportunity for all who have the unabridged access to it.

It doesn't seem to be the case that everyone is thinking this way, or viewing technology through this beneficial lense, so to speak. As with all things that emerge out of ingenuity and innovation, it becomes a double-edge sword. Many companies have emerged that seem to sense an opportunity to reverse this mantra of 'technology for lifekind' into 'lifekind for technology'. One only has to consider the countless privacy issues that have arisen from social media companies nefariously, or at least questionably using, our personal data. Web platforms have been set up under the guise of connecting us. This new connection-enabling is surely appealing to nearly every human being, and by creating a plethora of ways that we can connect we don't realize that we're often persuaded (often sneakily) to provide explicit details about our personal lives — behavior and worldlines — included as a tradeoff. This personal data is highly valuable to those who wish to do nothing more with it other than to get inside of our heads for the sake of more effectively marketing things to us for commercial gain.

This is an example of a belief that lifekind is a fodder of sorts for technology. It adds little value to the enhancement of humanity by being able to receive more relevant advertisements, or for a company to be able to predict our behavior, route of intent, or affinity — simply to extract money from us in exchange for items that are largely superficial. While commerce is good and perfectly sensible in a society of beings such as we are as humans, it isn't something to center such a powerful enabler that technlogy is around.

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