The dilemmas of the Technojungle

The world of The Technojungle seems to present humans with some dilemmas. I have been pointing many of them out as we have safaried along in these books.

I have pondered this for years now. What would happen if I was suddenly unable to continue in the online Technojungle either by illness, disability or death? I heard the other day about a woman whose husband passed away and she was unable to access his Technojungle accounts because she did not know the passwords. At least one very large corporation would not release the account, even though she was the executor of her husband’s estate. If the password had been written down somewhere, that could cause a compromise by someone getting access who should not. If another form of authentication, such as facial, iris, voice, or any other form of biometric, or otherwise, recognition was used, the problem would be even worse. Although the online Technojungle can promise a form of immortality, dealing with the data and information locked in various accounts you leave behind may pose the greatest of dilemmas.

When I first began writing this book, I was hoping to draw attention to some of the dilemmas we face with technology and the Technojungle. As I worked on the book, many of the ideas about what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go began to shift. One day I stumbled on the idea of using a jungle as a metaphor and so the Technojungle was born. During that time, I was thinking about the dehumanizing aspects of technology and this Technojungle world of the future we now live in. We are forced to deal with these dilemmas on a daily, even hourly basis. 

This book became quite a large project and I was beginning to stumble and stall over all the material I was juggling. I was stuck in my own Technojungle dilemma and I was overwhelmed—even dehumanized by just trying to write about the Technojungle.

One day, I decided that I could set aside some of the material and refocus the book. I started over and pulled in what I felt would work in the new version of the book. The material I set aside could be used for another book, the book you are reading now, along with the material I continue to write. Eventually, I realized that I really wanted to move the Technojungle journey toward asking questions to get readers to think. Eventually, we may work together at finding hope. 

I was stuck in my own Technojungle dilemma and I was overwhelmed—even dehumanized by just trying to write about the Technojungle.

Thus, the overall goal and hope of the Technojungle project became: Being better human beings and living in a world of technology—the Technojungle.

I decided that the material I had as foundational information would make a great first section. If I am using a jungle metaphor, then a safari just has to be one of the central activities of the book. A good safari needs a guide and a base camp. A good safari also needs equipment and I decided that some of the tools I have been developing, such as the list of questions, the list of axioms, and the extensive Technojungle glossary, which will be presented in the workbook, are a good start for tools. 

A safari is a journey about exploration and discovery. My goal, through these books, is to help you to begin your own journey of exploration and discovery by questioning how technology impacts your life. My hope is that one day we may be able to work together and start to equip ourselves to learn to be better human beings living in the Technojungle. Let us begin to look, see and ask. Look around you as you are on safari, see what is really happening in our world and your life, and then begin to ask questions. This will get you thinking. Think for yourself. The Technojungle is huge and complex. It is not easy to sort out and come to some definitive conclusions. There are plenty of dilemmas to contend with. 

I realized that I really wanted to move the Technojungle journey toward asking questions to get readers to think. Eventually, we may work together at finding hope.

This chapter begins our return to basecamp for a wrap-up after our brief Technojungle safari. In this book two, we have gone a bit deeper into specific topics to provide some debriefing and conclusions. 

Hopefully you have not just read this book, but you have participated along the way by engaging and wrestling with the ideas and questions. It is now up to you to get active beyond this book. Get on safari!

The dilemmas I originally thought I would focus on have not vanished. They are scattered throughout the book and the Technojungle for you to discover. What I have discovered is that they turn up regularly. There are probably many more that I have not even discovered myself. Focusing on the dilemmas can be interesting, but, thinking about being human so that we can truly live in the Technojungle and also exposing some of the dilemmas and what dehumanizes us in the Technojungle, is a better trajectory.

We can look back through the books and consider many of the dilemmas discussed. The calculator allows us to be fast and accurate with arithmetic, math and other calculations, yet we are taking away some exercise for our brain and losing a skill and ability. Perhaps our brain can learn to do even more than we allow it, even without the Technojungle. If we allow our cars to do all the driving, what happens if we ever have to take over control? This list goes on as we ask, “What are we gaining, what are we losing and what are we leaving behind?”

What will we do when the Technojungle takes over? Will we do some humanizing activities, or just sleep?

A few Technojungle developers are looking at ways to develop technologies that don’t just replace, or take over from, humans, but enhance and build human abilities.

Many of the dilemmas are simply difficult. It is hard to determine what we might do. What might be our best course of action? A course of action, perhaps as simple as leaving your smartphone in the car when you go out for dinner, might just be plain hard if you are addicted to using your smartphone. A simple idea becomes difficult when a habit or addiction is involved. 

The spellchecker is an example where we can take over and turn to the computer only after we take a stab at figuring out the misspelled word ourself. We can all do this the next time we are typing on our computer. Imagine just typing to get our thoughts down, reading to see what spelling errors we can catch and fix ourself, and then turning on the spellchecker to see the red squiggles. The squiggles can challenge us to attempt to do our own correcting before asking the computer to do it for us. If we don’t take back our skills, we may face the question of, “Why learn to spell in the first place?” 

If our computers can write for us, and they certainly can, then, “Why should we even learn to write?” Perhaps we should only have to tell our smart machine the ideas we wish to convey and let it do the writing. Soon after we arrive at that point, we may have computers that have a direct link to our brain. Therefore, why would we even need to speak. There might be no need for language. We might simply have thoughts, concepts, ideas and our machines would do with them what we wish. That is, as long as everything works flawlessly. That is, if we humans can become flawless. That may simply be an oxymoron. We can easily find ourselves in a snarled tangle of dilemmas.

I have mentioned several times about my Essential Tremor condition. I am glad to have some assistance from the Technojungle. As I type, I often miss keys, or hit the key more than once due to the tremors. My computer can often correct my typing errors as I go. I still carefully proofread everything I type and am often surprised at the corrections the computer made. “Did I actually type that?” “I’m sure I didn’t type that.”

I am working on using dictation, however, I still find thinking and writing to be a connected activity. Early on in writing these books I did record my thoughts and notes. Then I typed them out. The problem is that, as I speak my thoughts, I umm… and ah…, and don’t always get straight writing. When I eventually transcribe my recorded notes, I can sort everything out to be more coherent.

I do find dictation work extremely well for text messages. I find it nearly impossible to peck out on a tiny smartphone keyboard any message with and speed and accuracy. If I dictate any lengthy writing for, say, these books, the editing become an immense problem. Manoeuvring around my written paragraphs is difficult enough when I type slowly and carefully.

We know that no technology is flawless and certainly all technology is subject to misuse. We also know that everything in our human world has flaws. We and our creations are not perfect—including the Technojungle we created. Yet, our smart machines are based on logic and are designed to make our world better and somehow more perfect. How do these machines function in an imperfect human world with imperfect humans? Is this a dilemma our machines face? Is it a dilemma we face?

Many technologies of today are quite different from any other technologies of the past. If we look back to the inventions of electric lights, the gramophone, the automobile, trains, planes, to name a few, it is obvious that these inventions and technologies truly changed human lives. However, they did not compete with the human mind the way computer technologies have. Does the competition between computer technologies and the human mind threaten what it means to be a human being? How and why?

We don’t really have a long-term history on which to base our trust of the Technojungle. Do you have some kind of faith that the Technojungle will somehow take care of you? Does this seem more like a religion?

As you interact with AI, you might ponder—is it the ultimate perfect technology to solve human problems, or as Stephen Hawking said, some sort of “life created in our own image” and that includes our flaws. If it gets out of our control, might we actually be “…summoning the demon,” as Elon Musk stated?

Here is something I have wondered. Suppose we take two artificially intelligent robots and place them in a room with only the Internet to learn from, would they learn to get along? Would they bicker, or harass each other? Would they try to out think each other, or even physically fight? Could they overcome any negativity learned and gained from human data, information and various activities on the Internet? Or, could they start a war and end up destroying each other? What would the robots be missing that could save them? Without empathy, sympathy, compassion, benevolence, morals, beliefs and values…, could machines survive? Could they learn or acquire these attributes before they meet destruction? These are truly huge questions and present dilemmas with potentially devastating outcomes.

The question to consider is not whether a human created intelligence can perform tasks better than the human creators, but whether the human created intelligence can overcome inherited human flaws?

In the Technojungle, we can look back down the path and see from whence we have come and what we have had to deal with to get to wherever we are in the jungle. We can try to look forward down whatever path we are on to see where we may be going. We can look through the over-grown foliage to see if there is a clearing. Can we direct where we are going if we look carefully and take the best action for our next step forward, rather than aimlessly following whatever path the Technojungle presents us? Can we pick up the machete and carve our own human path through the jungle foliage? Can we learn to hack away the dilemmas and find our way through the Technojungle?

Do you find it interesting that we seem to have some sort of built-in urge to mechanize and improve the ways we do things? Do tribal peoples living in real jungles have any similar urges? Where do you think this come from? Civilization? Why do we want to organize and optimize? Why do we want to be Technojungle machines? Why do we create machines and then let them make us more machine-like? Is it part of our social upbringing? Or does it go even deeper, perhaps to our need to do things together?

The question to consider is not whether a human created intelligence can perform tasks better than the human creators, but whether the human created intelligence can overcome inherited human flaws?

We have the need to be together and to do things together and that means we need the means to do it. Communicating is one piece of the puzzle and it leads to language, or perhaps language leads to communicating, which is a method of encoding and organizing thoughts so that they can be conveyed and understood by other human beings. Could the need to improve the way we communicate and do activities together be part of what is at the root of why we need to organize ourselves in the Technojungle? 

Here is something that is counter intuitive. If we look at much of our casual communications, such as text messages, are they highly organized and efficient? Quite the opposite, I would say. Some require some serious deciphering and translating. Can we find our inner urge to be human beings playing in the Technojungle busting forth and poking through? Is this, and other casual flaw-filled communicating, an example of our pushback against the Technojungle’s perfecting traits and thus is our desire to hold on to being human beings? Or are we so stressed and anxious about lack of time, overwhelmed over having too much to deal with in our lives, and concern over an uncertain future, that we simply can’t mange to be concise and clear in our communications?

This is a good spot to interject some final points about stress, anxiety and depression. Clearly, shouldn’t the top of the list goal of the Technojungle be to bring a calm, stress-free life to humans? The only people I hear of who get to experience anything like that sort of life leave the Technojungle. Humans living in the Technojungle are prone to the debilitating, disabling disease of depression. Depression is becoming the number one disability in Technojungle societies. One must ask why so many people experience stress, anxiety and depression when we have so much technology that could be developed to ease human burdens? What is going wrong? Surely this is one of the most concerning dilemmas of the Technojungle?

One of the unforeseen results from the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has been extreme stress and anxiety. It affects everybody in various ways, but it does affect everybody. Some people have reported distressing physical symptoms in addition to mental. The impacts to society as a whole cannot be overlooked or underestimated. Life for everybody has changed and may never return to the pre-pandemic normal everybody was used to. Even though the Technojungle tried to come to the rescue, fatigue from constantly using Technojungle mediated communications has caused many people to disregard protective protocol guidelines such a social distancing, and that has only fed the pandemic. These are dilemmas with inestimable outcomes.

We have been created to use technology, but just as we need to steward our planet Earth, we need to steward and manage our technology and the Technojungle. We must shape, configure, remain in complete control, and dominate our technology to ensure we are not dehumanized. We need to make sure that, through our technology of the Technojungle, we don’t destroy the Earth and even ourselves. Stewarding the Technojungle then becomes one of our main quests. Do you have ways you steward your use of Technojungle technologies?

Do you feel that technology and the Technojungle can and will one day solve all problems humans face if we just let it develop without questioning? Haven’t we had to intervene in many ways avoid destroying our planet through our use of technology? Could we be on the wrong track? We have used technology to cause destruction to the environment of our planet and that is dehumanizing. Yet we are turning to more Technojungle technologies for solutions that may result in further dehumanization in other ways if we don’t all pay attention. Instead of just allowing more technology, we would be better off determining what humanizes us so we are better at being human beings? Remember adopt, adapt and appropriate? If you are more intentional with your use of technology, you can integrate it appropriately it into your life.

I think we can find plenty of examples of questioning some of the destructive ways we live. However, do we as a society actually question technology—the Technojungle—and how it dehumanizes? Think about new technologies on the horizon. In unleashing further technological developments with the goal of solving problems we have already created with other technology, do we find that the dehumanization shifts to other aspects of our lives? Has this happened in the past? 

A tighter grasp of our energy and resource use through new technologies can improve our planet and therefore our lives, but we do we also introduce other means for technology to dehumanize us. It comes down to questioning our future and our relationship with the Technojungle.

Switching to electric vehicles can reduce dependency on oil, however, we need to be concerned about how that Technojungle electric power is generated (burning coal, hydro, solar, etc.). Can you imagine your world without gas stations, or as they used to be called, service stations? Suppose you need to clean your windshield or find a washroom? Will these be available at charging stations?

We can look back down the paths we have taken through the Technojungle and see that along the way technology has been both friend and foe. It has presented to us unexpected twists and turns and brought extra baggage and dilemmas for us to deal with. It is up to us to learn from the journeys of exploration and discovery down the path of the past and to carve ourselves new paths that steward technology and the Technojungle in ways that do less to dehumanize us and more to help us at being better human beings. Life in the Technojungle is about facing and conquering dilemmas.

I am regularly frustrated by the Technojungle dilemmas. One day my E-mail works fine and the next day it does not. Or suddenly I can’t connect to my Wi-Fi. When this happens I almost always wonder, “What if this kind of failure involves something important such as my autonomous driving car?” Then I begin to consider various scenarios. I get in my car and it tells me, ‘Can’t connect to navigation system.’ What if we are on the highway and some sort of failure occurs? Isn’t driving a speeding car on a highway one of the most dangerous things humans do? We are like ground missiles and one wrong move means disaster. What if a huge truck with no driver loses control? 

For now, at the time of this writing, Technojungle autonomous driving car progress seems to have stalled. While the ethics and dangers of certain situations are considered, other issues,  such as social acceptance, cybersecurity and cost are not getting enough attention. Cybersecurity is one of the first issues that always pops into my mine. But one we won’t have a choice. You will have to drive mingling with driverless vehicles. One day you might not be able to buy a regular ordinary car. You will only be able to buy a transport capsule—move humans in a pill. It seems insane.

Dilemmas can be disorienting. That is one of the reasons I want to start pointing out some Technojungle dilemmas. I believe that we often get, or to some degree are perpetually, disoriented and off balance. It is hard to find time to clear one’s mind of all the busy-ness of life in the Technojungle and really understand what is happening to us and who we are in the jungle. This too is a dilemma. Do you feel disoriented by any dilemma of the Technojungle?

When faced with dilemmas, we can use our thinking skills to explore by asking questions which will expose some of our assumptions and expectations around the technology in our lives. Discussing with other people can help us to explore further, we can begin to see what is really happening in our Technojungle. I believe that you and I can’t sort out our lives on our own. That would not be human. We are made to work on life together, so hopefully with some sharing of ideas with each other, we can begin to find ways to steward our technology and thrive in the Technojungle. 

Gaining this sort of a vantage point, we will find it much easier to reclaim, maintain and protect our humanity. We can formulate methods for making improvements and stay in control of our technology and the Technojungle. It will become our way to civilize the wild west-like Technojungle and make it human by using our machetes to hack our own paths, by trimming and pruning the Technojungle, by staying balanced and oriented as human beings.

My hope is that this book will bring some interest to what I see as hugely important for the survival of each and every one of us as human beings. I have started a blog which I will give more attention to once I have completed this book. You can find it at: technojungleblog.wordpress.com. I also want to start a discussion area of forums. Next, I plan to develop a workbook and then take some of the material I have set aside and begin a second book with the goal of moving toward more solutions, perhaps with input from readers of the first book.

I welcome your input. 

We face dilemmas in the Technojungle and they can lead us to being stressed, anxious, disoriented and dehumanized. We need to understand what it means for us to be human and to strengthen our humanity—to be free and liberated from the often enslaving technologies with which we have surrounded ourselves in this Technojungle of the future. We can look for ways to do this. Music is very humanizing and a certain type of music may hold some keys to learning how we can build up our humanness.