As Technology Gets Better, Will Society Get Worse

Comfort-seeking missiles, we spend the most to minimize pain and maximize pleasure. When it comes to technologies, we mainly want to make things easy. Not to be bored. Oh, and maybe to look a bit younger.

 

Our will-to-comfort, combined with our technological powers, creates a stark possibility. If we’re not careful, our technological evolution will take us toward not a singularity but a sofalarity. That’s a future defined not by an evolution toward superintelligence but by the absence of discomforts.

The sofalarity (pictured memorably in the film “Wall-E”) is not inevitable either. But the prospect of it makes clear that, as a species, we need mechanisms to keep humanity on track. The technology industry, which does so much to define us, has a duty to cater to our more complete selves rather than just our narrow interests. It has both the opportunity and the means to reach for something higher. And, as consumers, we should remember that our collective demands drive our destiny as a species, and define the posthuman condition.

 

What Machines Can’t Do

David Brooks in an Op-Ed in The New York Times

In the 1950s, the bureaucracy was the computer. People were organized into technocratic systems in order to perform routinized information processing. But now the computer is the computer. The role of the human is not to be dispassionate, depersonalized or neutral. It is precisely the emotive traits that are rewarded: the voracious lust for understanding, the enthusiasm for work, the ability to grasp the gist, the empathetic sensitivity to what will attract attention and linger in the mind.

 

Unable to compete when it comes to calculation, the best workers will come with heart in hand.

 

Is There Such A Thing As TMI?

In the age of social media, when cell phones come with camera lenses optimized for selfies, that last question gets asked regularly. So I am going to answer it, once and for all: No. There is no such thing as TMI on the Internet. We are living in a post-TMI age, and everyone needs to deal with it. Preferably by using the “unfollow” button.

 

There is such a thing as too much information for you. There is such a thing as information the speaker will later regret. But if an audience is willingly and pleasurably consuming the information, then by definition, that is the right amount of information for them. Assuming the information in question is yours to share — your life, your ideas, your stories, your pictures, your theories about elf genealogy in Lord of the Rings — you cannot share too much of it. There are no captive audiences on the Internet. Whereas discussing your sex life at the Thanksgiving dinner table may be TMI for Grandma, discussing your sex life online does not necessitate Grandma’s participation. If you follow someone on Twitter and you find that her tweets are too much for you, then you may unfollow her. If you continually recoil at TMI, it's because you lack the willpower to stop consuming (or foresight to avoid) the information in question. That’s your fault.

Wholeheartedly agree with Maureen O'Connor in NY Magazine's The Cut. This applies to many things beyond "social media," entertainment, politics and even people IRL.