Editorial – March 2015 by GF Willmetts: The invasion has already begun.

March 1, 2015 | By | Reply More

The invasion has already begun.

 

Hello everyone

Sometimes editorials hand themselves to me on a plate. Take this month’s review of ‘The Glass Cage’ by Nicholas Carr in this instance. You should have read it by now, if not do so now and then come back here.

A few decades ago, we would have placed the subjugation of mankind by Artificial Intelligences and robots as a certainty. When you look at the number of SF books and films pointing that way, ideas in that direction have become very one note. Mankind either loses or wins in the end in a typical good versus evil scenario that any reader or viewer can understand. There was no other option and a lot of SF authors never saw any different even up to modern times.

In our current technology Science Fiction world that scenario doesn’t appear to be happening. Humanoid robots have happy faces and look fun walking around and can even be bought economy size. As previously discussed here, AIs are still a long way off. Although we might call our computer names (or rude ones when they go wrong), we still see them as more machine than entities in their own right.

However, as Carr notes in his book, people today are not only embracing the technology or the likes of mobile phones, tablets and computers, many are finding that they can’t live without them now. That took less than twenty years! The side effects are more alarming in that they’re reducing many people’s innate abilities, such as navigation, as they choose mechanical guidance than use their own commonsense. In other words, our future generations will bring a whole new dimension to being lost without a computer tool to steer them where they want to go.

One thing people forget is that these same application software are programmed by other people and you have to hope that they or the companies they belong to have your best interests at heart with what they supply. When you consider any information shared with such companies are also likely to be accessed by governments and other, shall we say, ‘interested parties’, who knows what will become of us?

Even more worrying is software only guiding you based on your interests although I did have to wonder on that. I mean, if people are going to be plugged into a computer technology and software from an early age, how will they develop their interests in the first place or are they going to be instilled by whoever programs these things? This goes back even further to an old Peter Seeger song ‘Little Boxes’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_FB9bwyp6M where we all come out of pretty boxes and all look just the same. That should be a frightening scenario straight out of the pulp Science Fiction books. A dictator wouldn’t even have to leave his or her office to program the population to a particular way of thinking and we would see the last of free will. This might sound appalling in the west but I suspect in the east and more suppressed countries, they might never fear a rebellion again. There will also be no resurrected renaissance man or woman to show what it was like to have free will neither as in the typical SF scenario story.

I wonder how non-conformity works in such situations? If anything, this is far scarier than any Science Fiction scenario so far. We’ve had realities with cloned people being identical in every way but seeing the population collectively volunteering to go that way is just scary. Worse, it’s insidious because the population is being undermined and not only not noticing but actually volunteering to go that way by buying such products. What does that tell you about free will? More specifically your own free will as you press that app button. The population might be turning into pod people, albeit iPod people.

InvasionBodysnatchers7

There are a lot of ways this can go. SF does cautionary tales that people read and listen to all too well and not even dream that this is building into an ‘Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers’ under our noses because they don’t see the source as dangerous. It might have prevented us from annihilation along the way to where we are today but there is now a need to express concerns about too much reliance and faith in technology even from those of us who actually use it. I mean, I’m typing this editorial on a computer and, shortly after, putting it on the Internet. Am I not embracing the technology? Only to a degree. I haven’t ever player with any apps yet, not moving up to Windows v8 although whether I do or how much when my current computer dies and I have no option but to use Windows v10 remains to be seen. Hopefully, the option of choice of how much of the new software I need to use will still remain.

In the meantime, there are ways to improve our use of technology. If we can’t live without it then at least we need better controls in how we use it. The easiest way is to look up and around than depend on tech when you don’t have a need for it. The second is to encourage companies to create a better balance of software usage so we don’t lose our natural skills. If anything, the correct application of technology can also enhance rather than lose them. We don’t need total dependence on anything.

More Pulp

The last thing we need is to become a slave to our technology. A total dependence on anything can be dangerous. We can see that with alcoholics and other addictions which blots anything else out of their lives. Technology dependency has far greater range because it affects a lot more people across a diverse range. It doesn’t discriminate against rich or poor or even IQ. If people don’t have a computer then they certainly have a mobile phone or pad. Who would think such a small gadget could be so dangerous? Even social networking has become a normal means of contact than doing it in real time. That already should be seen as a warning sign. It literally divorces people from people although it might do wonders for over-sized populations. Just think. A few decades on, people getting together to have children might seem quite radical.

Worse, how can you beat this kind of addiction? It isn’t as though all technology is bad. Even if there is a ‘cure’, with technology all around, how soon would you re-hook up to it and be back where you started?

This is one aspect of our current Science Fiction reality that I don’t think anyone has counted on. Oddly, although it doesn’t have alien invaders, the scenario is something we’ve experienced in our reading. The book solution is to turn away and yet our dependency on technology isn’t something we can just turn away from. It isn’t likely to give a happy ending. Other solutions are needed. I’m not even sure I can come up with a single solution because it would need multiple ways so that they can be adapted to various people.

‘The Glass Cage’ should be read and learnt by us all. Any technology should enhance not reduce us. The use of computers has shown that is possible. We use the likes of word processors as a replacement for the typewriter and probably spared many of us from re-writing our drafts from scratch and saved many trees along the way. The newer applications should not nursemaid or ignore our innate skills. To give total dependency would be a foolish road to travel.

Although I have nothing against using technology myself. Hell, I use and know computers rather too well, especially as I’m playing around with making my back-up computer a dual-system so I can run old software. The important thing is not to become so dependent on it that you can’t make your own decisions without looking at a screen for answers first. If we lose the ability to question our own choices then we risk being slaves to technology and not the other way around. If that happens, then we will have all become victims of the worse Science Fiction scenario.

 

Thank you, take care, good night and don’t rely on the app labelled ‘free will’ to do your thinking for you.

 

Geoff Willmetts

editor: SFCrowsnest.org.uk

 

A Zen thought: I might make wrong judgement calls occasionally but at least I’m the one making them.

 

Category: Culture, Horror, MEDIA

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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