Friend or Foe?

The increasingly anthropomorphic channels of technological interaction, such as Siri and touch screens, while arguably more intuitive, are the cause for societal unrest in the 21st century.  As Genevieve Bell of describes in her analysis of Siri vs Furby in her Stanford Seminar, what we are currently witnessing is a shift from human technology interaction to a human technology relationship (stanfordonline 2013); the actions that the Furby performs have little relevance to the user, unlike Siri and the application of big data,  where their actions are a response to data (audio or elsewise) generated by the user. This undoubtedly points at a shift in the paradigm of our thinking models, as rather than technology being a tool to be used, the dynamic is more symbiotic. However, this mutual dependence functions as a double edged sword in contemporary society. Where on one hand we are revolutionising our platforms of communication and the intuitiveness of technology, on the other there are concerns about the alarming rate of technological progression, and how far is “too far”. As Charlie Gere describes in the introduction to Art, Time, and Technology, “the increasing complexity and speed of technology is the cause of both euphoria and anxiety” (Gere 2006). This is further demonstrated through the analysis of media throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, where movies such as Terminator and Blade Runner depict a future scenario where technology has overpowered mankind through the classic master-slave dialectic. Evidently the cause of this paranoia is derived from popular media, yet where was this fear of technology first born from?

To reexamine Ihde’s idea that the morality of technology is derived from the actions behind it, as explored in my first blog post Farmtropolis, perhaps we characterise the future of technology as “sinister” because we have been taught to view it as an ‘unnatural’ force, separate from humanity and society. We ironically think of technology as inhuman and separate from culture, when in reality, like most tools, it is an extension of our abilities and our actions.

Yet while these views are heavily adopted by Western culture, they are not shared in the East. If you examine the trajectory of robot adoption in Japan, evidently they approach the issue of technology in a different mindset. Japanese culture conveys that technology, specifically artificial intelligence, is part of the Japanese psyche and landscape (stanfordonline 2013), and doesn’t serve to underpin the foundations of society, or create a “crisis of culture brought about by new technologies” (Gere 2006). It is here in Japan that it is understood that technology and culture compliment each other, and through the contrast of the West and the East we can see that the same technologies are viewed differently due to different sets of cultural discourses.

– Sam Watson

Reference List

Gere, C. 2006 Art, Time and Technology, 1st Edition, Oxford, New York

stanfordonline 2013, Stanford Seminar – Genevieve Bell of Intel, video recording, Youtube, viewed on the 20th of September 2014 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aKZwKFFDYw>

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