Machining Perfection

Can our Technojungle machines be perfect? Is the idea that machines can eventually solve all humankind’s problems be possible? Will our Technojungle machines try to make us perfect?

My life is full of messes. There, I’ve admitted it! My office is full of stuff and so are my computers and devices. In the olden days—pre-computer—I might be surrounded by papers and books. Now I not only have papers and books, I have computers and devices everywhere and they require cables as well as lots of other junk. I also have piles of stuff from my past, photos, old media, for example, which I am endeavouring to transfer to my computer and new media. Let’s not forget the deluge of data and the inundation of information pouring into my E-mail box and as notifications about news, and other information. It is constant. On top of all this, I often encounter technological issues popping up for no apparent reason. I’ve mentioned many of these already. To me, the Technojungle in many ways makes life less perfect. 

Have you ever stopped on your safari to think about what the purposes are of all the technologies we have in our human lives? Do you just continue along gaining more and more Technojungle machines and technologies to help you do things better? At least that is what I think many people seem to believe is happening. Maybe you end up just doing things differently. I’m not just talking about machines and not just computer technologies. We need to keep in mind all technologies, including chemical and biological.

The pandemic is an amazing example of how imperfect the Technojungle humans can be. One would think that, with all the incredible methods of communication available, getting information to people and having them follow guidelines would be effective. However, in reality, it is still confusing which is made worse by the propagation of mixed information, disinformation, and conspiracy theorists. Many people seem to ignore guidelines and restrictions. What confusion did you experience during the pandemic? What reasons can you think of for ignoring guidelines and restrictions? 

Yes, the Technojungle has helped with the development of vaccines at an unprecedented rate, still there remains many challenges, particularly for distribution of the vaccines. 

This novel coronavirus seems pretty tricky. The 1918 influenza virus died out after a third of the world’s population became infected and built up immunity. This time around, the virus has infected nowhere near the same percentage of the population yet (about 10%), however the cases are still rising and, immunity, whether acquired from exposure or from vaccines, does not seem to last. This virus appears to be more stealth than others and may well be more perfect than our technologies to deal with it. Do you think a virus, such as the novel coronavirus, can outsmart humans and their technologies?

(This was last edited in late Winter 2021, over a year after the start of the pandemic.)

Why do you think we humans are trying to use the Technojungle to machine a perfect life and world? What do we really want to do? Don’t we all just want to make our lives easier, healthier and more enjoyable—hopefully, more human in the future? We want to learn more about our world and universe. We want to solve problems. Sometimes, we just want make something new, or just simply make a new discovery. What else do you want to do?

In what ways are we carried away by the Technojungle in our hopes that it will solve all our problems making us somehow more human? We can only deal with a certain amount of information. How many devices can you give your attention to? How do you maintain all your devices to keep them all running properly? Just how many people can you interact with? The Technojungle may solve some problems, but one problem it creates is that it makes us more busy. Do you feel too busy? That is baggage and is dehumanizing. I always thought the future would be less busy. Wasn’t being less busy what we were led to believe about the life of leisure in the future?

I believe I am pretty savvy about technology, but I often think the Technojungle doesn’t like me and purposely throws curveballs at me. For example, why is my smartphone the only device stuck on the 2.4GHz WiFi channel and couldn’t even see the 5GHz channel today, but today it can? How do you deal with, and how to you feel about, these curveball-like issues?

These days I have been struggling with passwords. Every service, every device, everything has to have a password. Passwords must be strong. You know, more than 8 characters, numbers, letters, caps, etc. Then everything must have a different password and you have to change them often. Some services force this. Then there is two step verification where a code is sent to one of your devices and you have to enter that as well. Or some other form of verification. Logging in can be a less than perfectly smooth process. I am also amazed at the many ways websites, particularly social media websites, can hide the logout option. Why do you think this is?

Enter the password manager. This is software that you install on your computer, laptop, browser, smartphone, tablet and any other device. It stores all your passwords on a central server and synchronizes to all your devices. In fact, it can make up passwords for every situation and enter them automatically. I am always wary of this option because it seem like a loss of control to me. All you have to do is remember one password, the one to their system, and you have to hope that they do not get hacked, or some other catastrophic event does not happen. Most important, if you forget the one main password you lose everything and there is no way to get it back. So you write it down. But, doesn’t that sort of create a security risk? Do you use a password manager, and what is your experience? This is a complex world of the future in the Technojungle.

I know the above may seem to belong in Safety, Security and Privacy, or even The Dilemmas of the Technojungle, but sometimes trying to work out perfection leads to imperfection.

One day I heard a program on the radio talking about the Internet of Things. A monster online shopping mall, had buttons that allowed customers to press one that was linked to a particular product that they regularly used and it would be automatically ordered. What did this really do? It makes sure you only purchase that product from that retailer. This is not about making life easier for the customer, it makes life easier for the retailer. The customer probably doesn’t get to try other products, or go to other suppliers. This service has been discontinued because customers caught on to the disadvantages.

Suppose your Technojungle enabled fridge can track your food, remind you of expiry dates, place orders, or recommend recipes using what you have on hand, does this perfect your purchasing and food management? Are marketers trying to perfect their product marketing by tracking more about you—perhaps even manipulate you and control what you eat? This sounds dehumanizing.

At some point we need to ask what is the point? What is the purpose, or are the purposes, of all our technologies and Technojungle machines? Are they making our human lives better, or are we just perfecting our Technojungle? Can we keep improving to the place of human perfection? Wouldn’t that be dehumanizing?

If we look back at how machines have changed the ways we make things, we see that speed and uniformity have been important aspects. If our machines add more speed and uniformity to our lives, will we become more or less human? Will we all become the same? 

Do you believe it is possible to develop artificial intelligences (AIs) and manage to have them operate with some level of success, given our very imperfect world? Consider what could happen if we give them some sort of directive to help us live better lives. How might AIs accomplish this in our future?  Will they go to any lengths to accomplish their tasks? What could result from smart machines trying to make our lives better when we humans are naturally flawed and keep messing up our own and others’ lives? 

Once again keep in mind, the technologies, devices and machines, are all human developed and created, so they will likely inherit flaws from us humans. Remember, “It’s an algorithmic world” from book one and the seriousness of bias in algorithms. We have discussed how machines require humans to operate and maintain them, and how human error is often at fault with problems arise. So how will AIs know when a human makes an error? How will it overcome or avoid errors made by humans? Will any human imperfections and errors that become inherited into a Technojungle system be one day considered by AIs as human malware, bugs, or viruses? Will they devise methods of eradication? Would these AIs go seeking the sources of these problems–us humans?

An automotive assembly line where robots do what humans used to do, particularly the dangerous work. Humans still do some work and they operate and maintain the robots.

The goal of machines on an assembly line is to quickly make perfect products, every one the same and flawless. Are you on some sort of Technojungle assembly line to produce a perfect human you? Is this the result we want for us humans? Can AI be controlled and even programmed to help us be more human rather than machined to perfection human products? Can there be a perfect people? Would you want to be perfect? Are we expecting the future, somewhere down the road, to be a place where our problems are all solved by the Technojungle? Could having problems to solve be part of what makes us human?

We know that one important aspect of our world of technology we are calling the Technojungle is that there are always humans playing a role somewhere behind the scenes. Machines in an assembly line process can streamline production, however, not all steps can be done by machines. Humans have always played an important role. Does that role often become dehumanizing, since the humans essentially become part of the machine of production? 

As better Technojungle technologies have been developed, humans have been displaced to take up other jobs. Humans are still needed to operate the machines and to do other things like programming, configuration and maintenance. Could the roles that humans play eventually be done by smart robotic Technojungle machines? One day will there be machines that make and operate other Technojungle machines? What sort of world would that be?Take a hard look at this scenario, can you attempt to see any possible unexpected outcomes and baggage?

We always experience some challenges as we integrate new technologies of the Technojungle into our lives. Are you often stretched to learn how to adopt or adapt the technology into your life, or to adapt your life to the new technology? In book one I suggested appropriate as a third alternative. Have you ever appropriated technology into your life? 

When you experience challenges and feel stressed, do you also experience elevated levels of stress and anxiety? Do you sometimes find your stress and anxiety doesn’t subside? Once the technology is somehow integrated into your life, do you often find it may bring other longterm stresses and anxieties? 

I’m not suggesting that we humans had less stress and anxiety when we had less technology. We may be bringing different stresses and anxieties into our lives. Do you even recognize that you are stressed or anxious as a result of the Technojungle? Perhaps you become numb like we can become used to a mild and chronic pain. 

Take a few minutes to consider a few examples of new technologies you brought into, or were forced to use, in your life. What did you experience and how did you feel? Did you manage the situation well? If it was a machine, did it attempt to make you more perfect in some way?

For me the computer and laser printer came to mind. It was exciting, but I think it caused me to use a computer and software to make more perfect looking documents when a quick hand written document would have been sufficient in the past.

Could there be ways of learning how to appropriate Technojungle technologies into our lives that might be more humanizing? Using technologies appropriately is also important. Can you think of any technologies that you could use more appropriately to be more humanizing?

It’s the goal of Technojungle machines to do certain functional things perfectly, or at least better than humans, and to do things that humans can’t do. Can you think of some examples?

Machines are becoming embedded even deeper into the activities of humans. Can you see some ways they will bring an even more machined perfection to our lives that we may not be expecting? Can you look and see the tensions that exists as we are pulled by our Technojungle machines one way—to be more perfect, automated and mechanized—and our humanness pulls us the opposite way? Don’t we humans naturally mess things up, or act out of feelings, emotions and moods? As I said above, humans are imperfect and flawed. They always will be. 

If you have ever watched any TV episodes or movies in the Star Trek series, you will have seen the character Spock, wrestle with human emotions in the people around him. Spock was half human and half Vulcan. Vulcan behaviour was governed by logic as opposed to emotions. Being half human meant he had to try to bury his emotions. Human emotions often saved the day and demonstrated the value of humanness and humanity.

Is part of being a human being solving problems? What will happen to that idea when Technojungle machines take over solving all our problems for us? What happens next after the Technojungle has discovered everything there is for us? Could we end up living to deal with the unexpected issues arising from a world being taken over by the Technojungle? Could our human lives become full of unpacking and dealing with all the Technojungle baggage? Is this already happening? Are we just hoping and having some kind of faith that the future will be better thanks to the Technojungle?

Wouldn’t it be perfect to get up in the morning, have the Technojungle dress you and make you breakfast, then brush your teeth and send you out the door to do whatever there is left in the world for humans to do? Hopefully it will be enjoyable and humanizing. You come back when you are called for dinner. You get fed the perfect food for your body’s health, entertained and then tucked into bed. Tucked in by your technology.

The first part of the above scenario reminds me of the claymation movies about Wallace and Gromit. Wallace, an inventor, has a Technojungle of machines that get him up in the morning and out the door. Only, things don’t always go as they are supposed to.

Actually, the above scenario seems more like we humans become children with Technojungle our adults. Is it human perfection we are machining for our future of being human beings in the Technojungle?

Remember, you are learning on your safaris to look, see and ask questions, so that you may be more aware of how your humanity changes as you develop and integrate more technology into your life. It is important to learn to ask questions if we want to continue being human and live in a world of technology—the Technojungle.

Could one of the challenges of developing AI be to find ways to program it to accept and allow for human errors, flaws, imperfections, feelings, emotions and our moods? If that is not possible, we will end up fighting with our Technojungle machines as they try to perfect us humans and our world? We may change in ways we can’t imagine. Sometimes our Technojungle technologies can be transformative and even disruptive.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s