Monday, 26 November 2018

How To Balance Technological Development With Life Itself

Dear Reader,

I worked in I.T. for 40 years, but in that time (to 2006) it was all about data processing, the latest developments then being concerned with databases, enterprise business solutions (e.g. SAP) and the (then) upcoming world of the Internet. That now seems to be eons ago. In just over 12 years since there have been exponential developments in the electronic world to the extent that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now the main topic of conversation in this realm. It is gaining pace very quickly.

And one of the products gaining great momentum is Alexa.

Here is an interesting (and, be warned, fairly long) article on an assessment of Alexa and her relatives: click here.

The more I find out about this development the more I become apprehensive. Sure, AI will be a welcome aid in certain areas of need, but unfortunately, many of us take an unrealistic view about life and tend to develop deep attachments to gadgets. Look how we became attached to mobile phones and screen-based activity in general.

But to use facilities such as Alexa can only have one outcome to my mind: that our dependency on AI will grow and with it our attachment to it and loss of ability to live with the natural world to which we really belong.

As time goes on I long more for the countryside and the mountains that I enjoyed in my youth - not to become an extension to the world of AI. Living by AI (and gadgets) is not what life is about as far as I am concerned.

If we are concerned about our children and their attachment to mobile gadgets then - as I see it - there will be more to be concerned about as we lose our sense of who we really are.

Would you trust Alexa to find the solution to the Brexit issue or whether to bomb a country? It seems to me that we are heading in that direction.

How, then, to re-think the way we live our lives?

David Abrams is a 61-year-old American philosopher, cultural ecologist, and performance artist, best known for his work in bridging the philosophical tradition of phenomenology with environmental and ecological issues. He has written books, but in this article he frames the topic of technology (e.g. gadgets) vs realism; very intelligently in my view.

A short extract from that article states:
For most traditionally oral, indigenous cultures that we know of, any and every phenomenon is potentially animate; everything moves. ...
All things are felt to have their own pulse, their own inner spontaneity or dynamism. All things have agency, the capacity to act—although some things, like trees, rocks, or mountains, clearly move much slower than other things, like bears or dragonflies. Such styles of perception show themselves in exceedingly different ways throughout diverse indigenous traditions, yet Western ethnologists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries could not help but notice this curious commonality among the divergent tribes they lived with and sometimes managed to learn from. The members of such cultures seemed to respond to their surroundings as though all things were alive and (at least potentially) aware. Further, from this animistic perspective, it seemed that all things were felt to be expressive; all things had the power of meaningful speech (although, of course, very few of them spoke in words).
He ends:
For animism—the instinctive experience of reciprocity or exchange between the perceiver and the perceived—lies at the heart of all human perception. While such participatory experience may be displaced by our engagement with particular tools and technologies, it can never entirely be dispelled. Rather, different technologies tend to capture and channel our instinctive, animistic proclivities in particular ways.
This brings me back to the feeling I have of wanting to be back with nature. The natural world is part of my essence; anything else is ephemeral and unsubstantial I feel. To me, putting the natural world into second place (to gadgets) would be an abdication of what I have been bestowed with: it would be a betrayal of my real self.

God created us with free will, and this is the very sort of situation that should challenge us to determine a proper direction in our lives. In so doing we fulfil the trust that God bestows us with, and is the real reason for our creation. We are here to find our real selves: that is our real goal in life, not submission to slavery. But the over-use of gadgets is just one way by which we can become enslaved.

Thank you for reading this.