By Beatrise Prince
Recently, I visited the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb in the St. Bravo’s Cathedral in Ghent. What I was surprised to find was when we chose to have an audio guide, they gave us headsets, and through them we could see holograms integrated into our real surroundings, showing and explaining the past. The thing is, I was impressed, but I couldn’t shake this over-looming feeling of discomfort and unease. My inner fear of technology was resurfacing. There we were, all present, yet looking not at real objects or real people. We were staring into nothingness. We were disconnected, all alone. From the third person perspective it looked absurd. It made me think – how far can technology go? Is there a point where we overstep the boundary of what should be invented? What exactly does the future of technology entail?
Technology has already allowed us to connect with the world. You’re reading this on your device, I am writing it from mine. It allows us to discover new things, it allows us to move more efficiently, it allows us to communicate. Technology is used everywhere – from traffic lights to MRI scans. It has a potential of being used even more widely: it can replace the boring jobs of humans; it can create virtual worlds and realities. The future is technology.
There are, of course, innumerable positive things we can and will do with technology in the years to come, for example, sand batteries, and digital “twins” to track health and energy storing bricks. These inventions would help people with disabilities, or would allow us to do things more efficiently, and more sustainably. In general, they would make our lives more comfortable. Yet, these are all obvious positives, and the sole reasons of why we are researching and putting in effort to further advance technology.
The brighter the light, the darker the shadow. Many have often expressed their fear of robots taking over the world. I would argue that it is not the only one of the formidable outcomes.
There have been multiple stories, books, and even shows made to either warn us or entertain us the very least. Take Black Mirror, for example. The show has multiple seasons,
each episode showcasing a different dystopian reality, in each the main cause of the problem being technology or rather the people who deploy it.
The short story “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” written by Harlan Ellison, both horrifyingly and thought-provokingly crafted, showcases the possibility of trapping consciousness into computers. Now it seems unrealistic, yet if a perfect replica of yourself were created, using all the data collected about you, there would be no way of knowing whether you’re the “real” version. In a way, aren’t we all just biological computers?
The idea that computers, artificial intelligence, and technology can become so advanced, we cannot distinguish it from “real” feeling and thinking individuals, is a thought rather disturbing. Where even is the “line” between what’s feeling and what’s not? Artificial superintelligence – AI, which surpasses humans in thinking and interpreting – now is only a theoretical possibility, but there is no way of knowing where the limit for AI is. Couldn’t it be considered more “human” than humans ourselves? How could you prove they are not feeling or perceiving beings?
Lastly, microchips invented to streamline and make our lives more comfortable, is also a possible cause of problems. It might allow people into our minds. Elon Musk’s Neurolink is being created, designed to be implanted into our brains. Already, our data is being shared amongst companies, our computers getting viruses, and there are technical issues with our devices. Even the slightest issue with a device like this could create great consequences. What would happen if the microchip malfunctioned? What could the companies do with the data collected? These concerns are not the most invalid, as they ask the question of how much we can put our trust in and rely on computers.
Do Not Be Afraid
I might take on a bit of a blasé view – you should not be afraid. Technology is always evolving; no person can stop that. Some may find the future exciting, some may be terrified, and some mightn’t even care. Humans have always “looked ahead”, in the sense of always wanting to advance and improve, and this trend will continue. The innovations might help create amazing things, for technology already holds great power. As often said, technology is simply a tool, it all depends on how one uses it. We can only hope it is used well.