Technology has had an impact on society in many ways, but one way it’s caused an influence, is through its’ effect on human behaviour and attitude. Technology has shaped the behaviour of society; through the introduction of social media, we see ourselves becoming enticed into constantly updating others on our lives; what we eat, where we go, what we do. Youtubers make daily vlogs, Snapchat has introduced Snap Map which lets you share your current location with your followers, Instagram has introduced stories – this increased interconnectedness and ways to digitally overshare is encouraging a behaviour of self-obsession, narcissism and the over-obsession of others.
If technology doesn’t adapt it becomes obsolete, but unintended consequences also form. David Collingridge’s take on the Green Revolution highlights that though technology has allowed benefits into society and solutions to live an easier life, it has also formed problems. Was this increased self-obsession a desired outcome? Have we really become a better society with these qualities?
Innovation has caused needs, but are all these needs necessary? How many social media sites do we need that all feed the same objective of sharing details about your life and ideas to the world. With this constant need to upgrade systems, devices, features we formulate an expectation that each year our lives will become better and more interconnected with the world, and so, we create a self-fulfilling prophecy, as explained by Moore’s Law, that this is what the future needs. But does it really? Are these same features making us narcissistic? Virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri and Cortana are made to make our lives easier, but with them acting like our personal assistants and tending to our wishes with no reciprocity, is this fuelling our egos? Is this unbalance unhealthy?
China is set to implement a Social Credit system, a way for technology to shape behaviour through Government sanctioned control. This increased surveillance on one’s life through a point system which encourages good behaviour and punishes bad has to make you ask, just because technology is updating, is society? This idea is almost Orwellian – destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. Adam Curtis’s notion of Hypernormalisation also explains this; innovation is political as well as technical, rather than to face the real complexities of the world, the government has retreated into forming a simpler, fake world, in order to hang on to power and stability.
The show Black Mirror portrays details on how technology may shape our futures. It hits close to home on episodes like ‘Nosedive’ which reflects a social credit system, similar to the one in China and hints at where home may be heading – though it always leaves on a disastrous ending. We can never really predict the outcome of technology until it’s been implemented, Collingridge’s Dilemma of Control explains how even if the risk is picked up later, by then, the situation is too complex as it’s already integrated into society. Technological advancements were never intended to create a society so self-obsessed, but the control technology has gained over us is what is shaping our behaviour – indirectly or directly.
The concept of shaping human behaviour through the social credit system, raises question on what becomes of autonomy and of free will? Can actions really be classed as your own when you’re being judged for each one you take – leading to consequences not only in your life but of your child’s too. Are technological advancements allowing us to become a more open society? The system rewards those who show good driving, pick up litter, donate to charity, pay their bills on time – but, will this system make carrying out ethical behaviour impossible unless rewarded? Does it take away the ethical and moral dimension of a person – are they picking up litter because they care about the environment of because they want more points? What kind of behaviour has technology shaped here?
Why has it become easier to imagine the future of technology, rather than a future of how society has progressed? Technological advancements effect behaviour and attitudes in many ways; in some aspects, they shape the behaviour of society and in others, they allow attitudes to remain outdated. Technological advancements are developing faster than our cultures and foundations, but attitudes are remaining the same; the gender pay gap is still a problem, segregation still exists. How are we able to enhance our devices each year but can’t tackle bigger societal problems? These bigger issues are however, complex and dependant on many factors, there is no exact idea on what the problem is and how it should be tackled, these are Wicked problems that technology is yet to find answers to.
Is this just another Grey-goo-like situation? Is it an exaggeration to state that technology is shaping behaviour for the worst? After all, technology will always evolve, and so will people as they follow it. We can’t put a constraint on what humans make of themselves. But, the pace of technological change itself is something to be wary of – there’s not enough time to adjust to persistent changes. When change occurred previously there was time to adapt and assess, but with fast innovation, there is a wonder on what this is doing to our habits and cultural senses of who we are.
Kranzberg’s first law of technology states that technology is neither good, bad or neutral, that developments frequently have social and human consequences which can go beyond their immediate purposes. Beck’s risk society states that the things that trouble us now, are things of our own creations. It’s hard to formulate a solution due to the complexity of sociotechnical interactions
in the world.
It is important to ask, that through technological advancements, what are we gaining and what are we losing? Technology has advanced and given us new ways to interact with each other and the world. But the undesired products that comes with it are the changes in one’s behaviour that technology has control over – both directly and indirectly, and the lack of change towards societal issues. As Michael Bess states, ‘What are these technologies adding to the human experience and, more importantly, what are they subtracting from the human experience?’.