The Glass Cage
Automation and Us
Nicholas Carr, Central, 303.483 C3122g 2014
Carr is too strident for my tastes. I agree that technology is mostly used stupidly. I think we can do better guided by searching than by avoidance. This isn't inherently a technological problem, or purely a technologist problem; the problem is stupidity itself. More accurately, it is a lack of wisdom. Can technology be used to amplify and encourage wisdom?
Toilets, trash cans, and tailpipes are low tech relative to computers, but they spread far more damage into our environment than the worst software failure (so far ). Carr highlights the failures, and shows Google protecting themselves from responsibility the way Microsoft did a generation before, Detroit did two generations before, and Columbus did thirty generations before.
I only read a few vignettes - the drumbeat of doom continues to the end. Missing is the central question; how can we use our tools to become more fully human?
First, we must ask fundammental questions: What should humanity be? What can individuals be? What do we want to be? What would we choose in hindsight? Who among us has chosen wisely, and how can we replicate that to global scale?
Second, we can ask how we can choose technologies that enable us to shape ourselves into our best selves? Most things don't work, but that leaves a vast number of options to choose from, more than there are people to choose. How can we get better at choosing, and enabling others to make life-enriching choices?
This is not what we use technology for in 2018. That isn't a fault inherent to technology, but a result of the subset of technologies we choose. More accurately, the technologies chosen by others that we surrender to. This isn't a battle against implacable others; instead, it is an abdication of personal responsibility. This isn't a battle against personal laziness, but a quest to discover new techniques to encourage ourselves and others to shine. Many of those techniques were discovered thousands of years ago, but haven't been optimized for maximum accessability. Some subset of properly designed technology might help. Let's find out.
I believe (but cannot prove) that we can choose and use technology to optimize life-enhancing behavior and maximize its dispersal, That isn't what we do with technology now, much of the time. Let's focus on getting better, and noticing when and how we do. That is the way technology works with successful factories and business models; let's personalize that.