A Colby Community Web Site

Tag: Facebook

The Dangerous Uncertainties of Technology

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a quintessential example of an experiment gone awry, an effort initiated with seemingly pure intentions but evolves into something with unintended and disastrous consequences. Frankenstein the monster becomes more than simply a reanimated “humanish” creature. His creation accidentally gave rise to issues of companionship, loneliness, and other human emotions that ultimately made him a true monster.

I believe that many of today’s modern marvels are riddled with similar unintended consequences. The primary example being the Amazon Echo. The daily news cycle is dominated with stories of Echo devices listening to their owners and then acting without any instruction. People with Echo devices find themselves receiving advertisements for products or services that they had only discussed in person with friends or family members. It seems as though the days of only having to worry about what one wrote or typed are long gone. The spoken word used to be the final frontier in terms of privacy, you could still speak your mind in private, but now the Amazon Echo is always listening, picking up on certain keywords, and creating customized advertisement strategies for you.

There is also the issue of the relationship between Echo data and the Intelligence authorities. Many people, myself included, view  them as conspiracy theories. However, if there is truly a connection between the two, then an invasion of privacy breach is certainly a real and present danger.

Customers who simply wanted a device that would record grocery lists and play music are suddenly facing unintended ramifications that they had no way of anticipating, much like Frankenstein’s monster. These people did not sign up for a product that listens to their every word, records and analyzes it. This is an area that I believe must be addressed by both private and public oversight entities.

Another example of technological overreach can be identified in the recording of search data on Google and Facebook. These tech giants have been recording the search data of individuals for years and have been able to compile advertisement and content preferences to suit each individual customer. This collection and manipulation of our personal preferences and information is changing the way that we shop and consume information. Lawmakers in Congress are finally beginning to investigate the ways in which Facebook and Google are handling our information, but I believe that this is just the “tip of the iceberg.” The Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is the most evident example of data manipulation. Facebook’s advertising platform allowed hackers to infiltrate the “newsfeeds” of American citizens and feed them falsified news that ultimately impacted the results of our executive election.

As technology advances and takes an increasingly more important role in our daily lives it is vitally important that we take a more cautious approach toward our work. Inventions that collect, track, and analyze our data are a novel and groundbreaking concept, capable of revolutionizing the way we live and work. However, if unmonitored and unsupervised, we risk sacrificing our sacred right to privacy.

The Longevity of Kranzberg’s Laws

Melvin Kranzberg, a prominent professor of technological history, penned his six laws of technology in 1995. Much has changed in the field of technology since then, many of his tenets remain applicable to this very day, while others have simply struggled to keep up with technological advancements.

Kranzberg’s First Law is “Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.” In my opinion, this law had remained true until very recently. With recent companies like Apple and Google coming under fire for intentionally crafting products and services to be addictive and create a user dependency of sorts. This development coupled with the working conditions of employees in Apple manufacturing plants in China, in which workers are treated horribly and not allowed to leave, makes them somewhat of an evil entity in my eyes. Additionally, the misogynistic culture of Silicon Valley is another issue of major concern and trouble. As the figurative cornucopia of technology, the sundry of sexual abuse and harassment cases to arise from that region are extremely unacceptable. I believe that the culture surrounding technology, not so much technology itself, has run a muck.

His Second Law, “Invention is the mother of necessity”, is one that I wholeheartedly believe to be true. As I mentioned in my first post, the moment that Apple introduced the iPhone, our generation was diverted down a course of no return. The phrase “There’s an app for that”, spurred a massive rush to develop apps that could do just about everything from banking to editing photos. However, without these apps, the iPhone and smart phones in general, would never have been as successful as they are. The invention of the iPhone required the invention of applications that would allow it to differentiate itself from the other popular mobile phones at that time.

The Third Law produced by Kranzberg states “Technology comes in packages, big and small”. This is still very true to this day. He makes reference to the invention of radar and how many people have laid claim to inventing it, and given that there are so many components and applications that go into it, they are not necessarily wrong. This is entirely accurate given the fact that technology is continually evolving and advancing, BlackBerry may have invented the smartphone, but Apple took it to a whole other level. It added to it and ultimately revolutionized it, so who is to say who actually invented it.

Kranzberg’s Fourth Law, “Although technology might be a prime element in many public issues, nontechnical factors take precedence in technology-policy decisions”, is one that I believe to be outdated. The ongoing Congressional investigations into the extent of Russian hacking in the 2016 Presidential elections are a prime example of this. At the forefront of the debate is a conversation regarding Facebook’s platforms and profile verification systems. Russian hackers allegedly used fake Facebook profiles to promote false information and incite support for certain candidates, while denigrating others.

His Fifth Law states, “All is history is important, but the history of technology is more important.” This is a rather controversial take, but I do agree with it. The history of technology is without a doubt the most practical and relied upon history used today. The history of law and precedence is a close second, but everything that we create in this day and age is a response, spin-off, or solution to a technological creation produced in the past. First came the printing press, then the telephone, then the mobile phone, then came the internet and smart phones, and finally arrived at Bluetooth and Amazon Echo technologies. Everything builds off of the past and that is why it is so important.

The Sixth Law introduced by Kranzberg, “Technology is a very human activity – and so is the history of technology”, is absolutely true to this day. The fact that we sit down each week in class and discuss the way technology is impacting society and our lives is concrete evidence of that. We are actively participating in this process. The illusion that robots will soon overrun the human race is not one that I will ever entertain, the human mind is absolutely essential to any technological advancement and we will always be able to manipulate it a direct manner.

© 2023 ST112 A2018

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑