Rooting for Dehumanizing Technology

Why I was won over by the idea of letting technology overtake humanity

“Mindbending” is the merit that any SXSW must earn — it should make your brain ache. This year’s edition was no letdown. Panelists vigorously presented innovative ideas from staggering culinary tendencies to the future of robotic prosthetics.

Most of these ideas brought considerable advances in technology, but the actual advances didn’t have the mindbending factor. It was the spirit behind them that did.

A statist’s fear

For quite a time now, statists have feared the menacing development of technology. The fear lies somewhere near the apocalyptic prophecy of robots taking over humanity — a Terminator saga coming to life. Sadly, it’s a fear that above all serves as a moralizing straitjacket.

It’s a fear to change.

Statist’s claim: “technology denigrates humanity”. Statists reject technology because they say it drains us of our freedom, it enslaves us. They say a future with technology is a future out of our control and closer to disaster.

They’re the people demanding that children play in their backyards instead of consuming social media content on their iPhones. No wonder they’re also the people ignoring the benefits of platforms like Khan Academy and Duolingo. They just focus on actions that could be easily represented as negative.

The spirit of a new tech era

Panelists at SXSW jump on the podium with the opposite idea. Confident and bold, this people are in for letting technology take control of our evolution. They believe technology unravels the advantages of spontaneous order, experiments and feedback.

The argument was clear for the panelists. The best way to progress is by leaving the work humans do to machines. To achieve this, technology needs to be over-humanized. We must relocate our humanity into our electronic devices. Let your phone be you, let it manage your life.

The reason is sound and clear:

We spend too many resources — mainly time and energy — in non-transcendental ventures. Groceries, traffic, bureaucratic processes… the list goes on and on.

By no means is this a brand new idea or mindset. It has been the spirit behind historic highlights such as Galileo’s modification of the telescope and Turing’s principles on computation. The thing is: it’s more explicit now than ever.

Technology brings a mother the joy of spending quality time with her child. Instead of being trapped for three hours in traffic, two shopping for groceries and making her way back home, she would only require a few brief moments online to complete her groceries. I wish my mom would have had that alternative.

I want my phone to be more human

During this year’s SXSW, I noticed there still was in me some trace of statism. I finally let go of the belief that technology was only meant to exist below our capacities. It’s evident that by humanizing technology we may take significant leaps towards progress.

But what’s progress? It’s delegating our mundane chores to a machine, even more capable than ourselves, and minding what’s truly valuable to us. This is progress. Through this, technology brings closer to leading better lives; lives that we truly own. That’s the ultimate expression of our humanity.