How Tech Is Potentially Downgrading Humanity
In October last year, disaster struck as Lion Air Flight 610 crashed mere minutes after take-off. 189 people on board the Boeing 737 Max did not survive the crash. Then, on March 10, the unthinkable happened. A Boeing 737 Max belonging to Ethiopian Airlines behaved in exactly the same way, crashing minutes after take-off and killing all 157 people on board. In both cases, the sensors that had been designed to help pilots avoid a stall had malfunctioned and had in each case commanded the plane to lower its nose at the worst possible time. Why, when considering that a very similar situation had played out a decade ago on an Amsterdam flight, had Boeing failed to rectify the problem? Did they “hope for the best” in order to save on expenses?
The 346 people killed had against their will fallen victim to what former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris describes as the darker side of technology; technology that ultimately downgrades human life. Harris, who was incidentally one of the first of Silicon Valley’s inside-workers to have shared his concerns about dark-tech with the world when he shared his views with “60 minutes” back in 2017, has now co-founded and launched the Center for Humane Technology.
But Harris is concerned about more than fatal tech-fails such as what had happened during the air crash disasters. According to Harris, we may be upgrading the machines, but at the same time, we’re downgrading human life, downgrading our capacity to pay attention and downgrading the state of human mental health.
Outrage Is A Valuable Commodity
Harris and the Center for Humane Technology hopes to inspire tech companies to employ a more human-centred model of business; one that will no longer “prey on our human brains to the detriment of all of human society”.
Dark technology thrives on a system of outrage, says Harris. It’s all about creating a by-pass in the human brain that leads directly to the most primitive of natural responses; our animal-selves. The current model, says Harris, seeks to first get our attention, and then enslave us to an addiction of false approval. The result is absolute mental health rot. The more time we spend on social media and other online platforms, desperately chasing the approvals of our peers; and at times even complete strangers; the more our time belongs to tech-companies. Our brains become hot pots just waiting to be filled with whatever the tech-companies want to throw at us.
Worst of all is, it’s all our own doing because we’re happy to offer to the gods of dark-tech our most precious commodity: time.
But are tech-companies aware of what they’re doing to society? Harris thinks yes. They are actively trying to forge a direct coupling between the human being’s sense of value; of self; and business and advertising airtime.
According to Harris and many others who share his views, it’s time to speak out against the likes of Zuckerberg and the Match Group. To these individuals and entities, says Harris, human life and human beings are no more than convenient vehicles to be employed at maximum capacity to generate business. To some, precious human life has become just another moneymaking scheme.