Reading Response #4

by Emily-Rose Gibbons 

If I were to give a speech about the state of computer technology today that would be read by someone 25 years from now, I would address several things, namely: the struggle to manage augmented online realities, privacy, the biological emergence of technology and the body, and business.

Reality versus augmented realities, digital presentation of self

I predict that the lines of augmented digital realities and real life will continue to be blurred. With technology, a new type of memory has become prominent in our daily lives: our digital memory. Digital memory not only purposely remembers the things that we want it to, that intentionally we input (such as phone numbers and schedules), but also remembers things that perhaps we have not purposely chosen to remember (such as that Google search on relationship problems and private health problems on Web MD).

If you scroll back on your first posts on Facebook from seven years ago or through your inbox, chances are you will find things that you don’t even remember or had completely forgotten about. While face-to-face conversations are suspended in time, and exact word and actions may be forgotten by our natural memory, our online activity is never forgotten by our digital memory. That’s both useful and scary. Viktor Mayer-Schoberger discusses this strange recent phenomenon in detail in his book, Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age.

As these technologies only continue to grow in popularity, I feel that people in the future will struggle to find a balance between managing their realities and what they share in their online lives (whether it be relationships, religious and political views, daily activities, rants/opinions, etc). It should also be mentioned that managing the audience, who sees and has access to the past and current information posted to online platforms will continue to be taken into serious consideration.

For instance, when I am 35 years old, perhaps the view of a potential employer could be skewed when viewing my online posts by my 17 year old self. I could quite likely be spending a significant amount of time managing and even covering up my digital trail of the past, so as to present the best version of myself online.

Privacy 

Privacy is also a huge issue I would address. Since nowadays we have our phones on us at all times, the government can see with who, when and where we communicate.

Identity theft is easier than ever since we share so much about ourselves online. For example, I have even personally seen several of my acquaintance’s photographs and information that was posted on Facebook, used to create fake accounts. Whoever created the fake account would add the mutual friends of the original person’s fake account in order to have access to even more users’ information.

Google knows what we search for and even caters our search results based on what it knows about us. Facebook’s advertisements coincide with previous Google searches and Amazon sends you e-mails reminding you about that chair you were eying up the other day. It is so easy to be taken advantage of by the capitalistic endeavours of the Internet, a lot of which has to do with manipulating our activity online to entice us to make purchases.

Biologically 

At this point, much of society have grown an additional unnatural limb: mobile phones are attached at all (or most) times.

The neuroplasticity of our brains can and have changed with use of technologies. Think about it: how many phone numbers do you actually remember? How many times have you logged onto Facebook, only to receive a reminder about a friend’s birthday or upcoming event that you had previously forgotten about? We rely on technologies to remember and store things for us. It certainly makes our lives easier, but we need to be aware of how much it affects us, even on a biological level.

Since technology makes our lives easier –no need to remember things, finding an answer to our question within seconds through a Google search, etc.–it is easy to fall into addiction. This addiction can also be seen in MRI scans of our brains and can lead to very real problems in living in the present moments of day-to-day life. I predict that as technologies such as smartphones and the Internet gain even more popularity worldwide, there will be an even more widespread need to address the best way to properly manage our technologies without doing harm to our mental and physical states, as we have already seen cropping up in many studies.

Furthermore, I predict that eventually technology will be a physical part of us, engrained in our bodies. As previously mentioned, much of society has adapted another limb: their cellphone. Technologies such as the Apple Watch and Google Glass promote attaching devices, which connect to the Internet and your mobile phone, to your body. Scientists are currently working to engrain technologies inside of the body, such as DNA nanobots which aim to fight cancer. Though the intent of nanobots is currently on the medical track, I wouldn’t be surprised if nanobots grow to involve communication purposes.

Business  

I predict that the need for businesses to have online presence will only increase, and that a hefty disadvantage will come to those who do not partake in such online endeavours (social media, website, etc.).

The way in which business is done will continue to evade our privacy, as previously mentioned.

As Amazon 1-Click ordering and Amazon Dash Button is onto now, purchasing things is something that will become nearly effortless and though real-life businesses will certainly still be present, the popularity of online shopping will continue to grow. In the future, people will not continue to gawk or laugh off such products, rather, it will be a common way of life and business engrained in our society.

Communication 

The way in which younger, more tech-saavy generations communicate with one another is totally different, for the most part, to how older generations do. Our language has changed (LOL, anyone?), social expectations have changed (Facebookless in 2015? Better expect to miss out on party invites), being connected and in the know about everything on your Facebook feed is practically social requirement (FOMO aka Fear of Missing Out has even developed – when your friends are talking about the latest funny cat video and you aren’t in the loop about it, you fear that you’ll miss out on social opportunities), not having a website in the business world can be detrimental nowadays.

Conclusion

I am a self-professed tech junkie and I fully support the evolution of technology. However, in order for technology to do us more good than harm, I cannot emphasize how greatly we need to grasp and follow the concept of managing and limiting our technological use so as to not miss out on reality and so as to not be manipulated by many of the underlying capitalist intentions (advertising, sponsoring, etc.) that are erupting seemingly everywhere. I think that it needs to be engrained in future generations that technological addiction can very well be just as harmful as any other addiction and that people should be taught to properly navigate these technologies in an educated way so as not to be sucked in by it.

As Michael Harris notes in his book, The End of Absence, “just as we decide to limit our intake of the sugars and fats that we’re designed to hoard, we now must decide to sometimes keep at bay the connectivity we’re hardwired to adore” (206).

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