More Likes Than Hugs

I love my smartphone and I’d be lost without it if I should lose it. For a while at least. It’ll take a little while to buy paper maps, an address book, an old fashioned cell phone, an alarm clock, a camera, a calculator, a radio, and all the other items it has replaced. Especially while traveling or driving to and through places I’ve never been to. On a motorcycle I only need one phone instead of tons of maps and guides and books and note books where all the places and hotels and phone numbers are written on. Not to mention all the cassette tapes to bring to be able to listen to the same amount of music. Dictionaries, lexicons, phone books and yellow pages, etc. All of that would make packing for a motorcycle trip or any trip for that matter way more challenging than it already is.

Technology has made our lives so much easier and more efficient. And I’m German. And an economist. I like efficiency. And I’ve been known to spend too much time with my phone. I love being able to read a number of different books at the same time, anywhere I go and to get any book I want in seconds. Having a notepad with me to write down anything that needs to be kept. And being able to stay in close contact with my friends in different countries and my family. And I am lucky (?) to have lived in a time where I was able to witness a technical revolution and an incredible amount of progress during my life so far.

But I also worked in technology and know how complicated and delicate it is. And mostly controlled by very logical and brilliant people who are often borderline autistic and not seldom lack empathy. And I am very familiar with what happened in Germany before and during and in Eastern Germany after the Second World War. Whatever other people know about you can be used against you. Naked photos you shared with that guy you loved and you thought would never do anything to hurt you. That silly comment about a certain politician with really bad hair. You being open about your beliefs or sexual orientation. Even if only to assure less confident peers that they’re not alone. The government or individuals who are benevolent towards you today might not be so tomorrow. And while you can destroy a paper photo and all its copies as well as its negative, anything that is on you phone, computer or online can never be completely deleted. Even if you have all the technical skills to do it on your computer, you do not know who might have downloaded a copy, taken a screenshot, or otherwise had access to it. It’s nothing like burning the photos of you ass you don’t want anyone to see.

Big Brother is already here. And the robots, too. Anyone who doesn’t see anything wrong with making everything about us available online, arguing how amazing it would be if you phone could tell you what to eat or where to go or who to talk to, etc., has lost the scepticism required to handle the technological advancements and is lacking some core human skills. It’s all about automation and while I can see the benefits, I’m scared and concerned given the lack of empathy and acknowledgment of the dangers at hand by people with the technical expertise and the power.

I remember reading Huxley and Orwell in school and I’m amazed by how right they were. And I understand people’s fear of the machines taking over. But to be honest, they have taken over already. Machines in human bodies. Page, Zuckerberg and the likes. With a total lack of comprehension why people shouldn’t share everything about them with machines and the people who can access them. Why organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful to make our lives easier could go terribly wrong if that information will get into the wrong hands. Anyone who has had their identity stolen or has been stalked will confirm that.

Technology is amazing and has made our lives so easy. But it’s also complicated and not everyone who understands it can explain it to people who don’t. To people who put their life online and accept any T&Cs without reading because it’ll require a law AND a computer science degree to understand them. I do know that some tech companies try to make it easier to understand what will happen to all your data and what data you’re sharing with whom and how. But having worked in a position where I had to explain complex things to people white little or less time I can say that people don’t read most of these explanations. And they enjoy every single “like” they get for their silly cat selfies or smart comments. And the law hasn’t caught up with technology. How could it? The people who could write it have crazily paid jobs at one of the tech companies and are therefore highly biased. While the politicians in charge of information technology still print out the Internet every morning…

I truly hope that I’m just old fashioned and overly concerned. I’m not clinging to the past but I’m glad to have the comparison. Of living in a world that was much lower tech than now. Of knowing how good a hug feels or the sound of a beloved voice through the phone vs. some letters and emoticons on a screen. My 11 year old niece sends voice recordings instead of texts which does give me some hope. And I’d love to work in a field where I can help mediating between non-the and tech people. Help to avoid the full automation and techisation of our world. Save the illogical, the irrational.

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