“Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons.”
-R. Buckminster Fuller
Human behavior is not deemed a complex science because we don’t know much about it. The fact is that we know a lot. It is nothing but the evolution of all our experiences and learning across the eons of time that we have existed.
However free-willed we may be, it is hard to argue against the fact that our circumstances, our facilities, the social and political structures that we live in and ultimately the technology we use, shape our thought processes.
It is this kind of thought hacking, which has had positive as well as negative effects on humanity over the course of time. Take the wheel for instance, that reduced travel time and led to innovation like automobiles today.
Take the Colt Revolver or the Genghis Khan Brand mini-bombs on the other hand. One can argue that these tiny weapons of death led to AK-47s and nukes in the modern day world and putting us all at risk.
Ideologies and Beliefs are only changed under Technological Renaissance
Some time back, we in India had Sati as a holy tradition where widows took to fire and departed with their husbands, irrespective of what their choice was. That changed with the advent of education, which I consider to be the most evergreen technology in itself.
However, I would not say that all has changed for good. On the contrary, when one sees the impact of technology on human behavior over time and derive scientific and psychological conclusions, he/she would be more disappointed than happy!
Here are few minute examples that 90s-born people might understand the best:
- Back then we used to remember numerous phone numbers. With the advent of mobiles and smartphones, this practice of improving human memory has become almost obsolete.
- Back then friendship used to mean emotionally enriching conversational compatibility, independent of time. Today, if your BFF ignores your Facebook message for 5 minutes, it makes you mad.
- Physical activity of humans overall has decreased as compared to the last century. More people spend time in stagnant positions that lead to negative body conditions like obesity and diabetes (the numbers of those afflicted rises each day).
- The dependence on technology makes us ignore nature and natural growth. A modern mother uses distractive principles to feed their children like showing them anime on an iPad rather than indulging in the learning art of parenting.
I can go on and on, but I think the point should be clear by now.
“All of the biggest technological inventions created by man – the airplane, the Automobile, the computer – says little about his intelligence, but speaks volumes about his laziness.”
The above numbers are just an indication of the proliferation of technology that exists today and where it is headed. According to an old saying in political circles, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
This is a saying based on the consequences ideologies can have on human behavior. The same can be applied to technology, which if you think is the power granted to sections of humanity by science.
We have consistently abused technology to simplify our lifestyle and justify the generic complacency, laziness and inefficiency as development, better living standards and yes, higher spending power.
Like any other adverse psychological affects, these can be controlled and minimized to large extents but naturally; human greed, self-interest and a fatal myopic vision of sustainability will not let us do that!
This kind of a statistic presents a very general overview to the unaware. The Internet coupled with all latest technological innovation is no doubt a benchmark of our intellect but an even important benchmark is how we let the applications control us.
Are we incapable of avoiding technological addiction?
Sure, drugs and alcohol are addictive substances but the mental impacts that technological addictions breed over time are equally dangerous and threaten our very own sentient intellect.
Will absolute technological dependence dumb us down to the roots rather than give us access to the stars?
Here are some ways in which “we have let” technology govern human behavior:
- Emotional Dependence
When you make emotional quotient quantitative rather than qualitative, you’re in for mental trouble. Yes, you can Facebook to connect to long lost friends but you also love it when the number of friends on your list increases giving you an empty sense of approval which when not met, in time, leads to an increased feeling of loneliness and social emptiness.
However, arguably this what most social networks ultimately propagate intentionally or unintentionally. Once latched, there are numerous ways to suffice this addiction. Like an addict, even the smallest dose that gives only an instant kick, makes the product worthwhile for him/her.
But again, in the long run, it leads to emptiness and the cycle repeats itself.
- Physical Dependence
The recent IoT boom has led to unprecedented technical innovation. Wearables and Virtual Reality have altered the way we conduct ourselves physically.
Today you can go to the gym, hop on a treadmill with your Fitbit attached and get to know each health detail while working out. This makes your plans much more efficient. No doubt about that.
But Fitbit is not all. Each day, numerous apps and tech surface that provide essential health information by monitoring our physical activities like sleep. The future of healthcare is already laced with nanobots that will transform continuous streams of information from inside our body.
One must wonder about issues like control and ownership of such information and the manner in which it might be used. Going too much into detail will make this article uselessly extensive but the crux is certainly clear.
- Societal Dependence
Picking up from the Social Media segment, the effect of online privacy, free license content and Internet as a general medium to promote enterprise is something to think about.
Take the Ashley Madison fiasco for instance. Numerous people who got exposed would never have wanted that data to surface into the public. This poses questions that evaluate online privacy and human ethics on a similar scale. Is that justified?
Technology shapes the society. It was the shipping enterprise that single-handedly revolutionized global trade. Railroad transformed United States from a war-struck wheat producing farmland to the most powerful country in the world.
Today’s technologies have similar power. It depends on how they are used and regulated. The current scene, as we discussed, is full of criticalities that need all round solutions.
- Personal Dependence
There is another aspect to human behavior that many people ignore. It cannot be summed up as a collection of psychological concepts and put out to use. In its very nature lays individuality.
Dependence of human behavior on technology can be excellently studied if we have a way to map individual behavior.
The fact is that we do. Try Facebook Ads for instance. You can set so many individual based parameters to market your advertisements. Sounds unethical, doesn’t it? Well, advertising is legal and so is this.
Our personal dependence on technology cannot be stressed enough. We search solutions to all our problems on the Internet. We buy stuff that we need/want online. We use passwords to access our most confidential information.
What happens when an entire ecosystem of systematic dependence, like this one, incurs even one-minute of malfunction. The answers are plausible – irritation, stress, frustration and anger are some of the effects. I wouldn’t scare you more by delving into the prolonged ones.
While technology coupled with automation allows us more leisure, we fill the gap with even more technology rather than using it for human growth in terms of introspection and self-curiosity.
Let’s face it, curiosity is the base of human behavior. If we outsource our own thought process to AI, how alive will we remain?
The Spoon Feeding Phenomenon
Technology, in its essence, is created to aid understanding and questioning of our own perceptions, cultures and beliefs. It should expand and not undermine them. It should make us progressive and not complacent.
Human behavior tends to be chaotic and moves towards backwardness when technology is misused and abused. Unintentional abuse will foster even deadlier damages than those currently perceived.
We have to be conscious about how we get shaped. It is high time to take this step in our evolutionary ladder and stop taking each and every ideology for granted.
We are heavily spoon fed today. Technology, both real and virtual, controls our train of thought and most of our apparently informed decisions are actually persuaded (voluntarily or involuntarily).
While technological progress must continue, this lopsided dependence needs to stop.
“The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers.”
– Sydney J. Harris