Going too far

When my daughter was attending university in Kelowna, British Columbia, I often went to visit her. I would travel from the coastal region, Vancouver, to the interior region using the Coquihalla Highway. This amazing, often dangerous stretch of road climbs mountain passes where snow often closes the highway. I in my Technojungle vehicle, traveled a Technojungle highway through a natural jungle. It was important for me to ensure I had sufficient fuel to make the trip. If I didn’t, I could go too far and pass the point of no return. If I forgot to fill up, there would be a point where I would not have enough fuel to go all the way, and I would not have enough fuel to go back. You see, there are no gas stations along the way. Also, treacherous weather could mean an overnight stay in the car and I might want to run the engine to get a little heat. So I wonder if there are situations where we allow the Technojungle to go too far, or we go too far in the Technojungle?

It just happened again this morning. All my Technojungle devices were working last night when I tucked (plugged) them in. This morning they all said the Wi-Fi password was wrong. I did something else for a while, came back and found everything working. These are strange occurrences. My wife and I just experienced the provider of our E-mail service telling our computers that our passwords were wrong. Suddenly it all starts to work again. What if this was my self-driving car that suddenly had a glitch?

I just lied in the previous paragraph, my iPad was off. Last night, I required my tablet and found the battery was at 1%. I shut it down and had to make-do without it. These are perplexing Technojungle experiences for sure. Can you list a few incidences of your own? 

Just how safe and reliable to you believe the Technojungle is? Might we one day, just go too far in the Technojungle? Scout around, do you think we have already gone too far?

Every time some minor failure occurs with any of my Technojungle devices or services, I get a few nagging questions ringing in my head. Why should I trust these Technojungle technologies? And they—the Technojungle corporations— want me to trust my life to a self-driving car; am I ready for that? Do I have a choice?

How concerned are you about autonomous driving, or driverless, vehicles? You don’t actually have much of a choice, that is if you want to continue to drive. By the time you read this, these driverless vehicles will be on the road, so won’t your life be on the line anyway? If you absolutely have to travel in a vehicle on the road or highway and you can’t “opt-out,” then you have no choice. Aren’t you being forced to trust the autonomous driving systems? Shouldn’t the systems running these vehicles be absolutely better than a human who is not impaired medically, or by any other form of impairment? Otherwise, wouldn’t we be better off developing ways to ensure, no human operates a vehicle if they are not in tip top shape?

I focus here on the self-driving car because it is such a great example to question. What are some other examples where we trust our lives to the Technojungle? How about examples where we trust our information? Remember, it’s not just failures, there are always bugs, that is imperfections, in anything created by humans. Also keep in mind that there are hackers and cyberterrorists out there. I always wonder how our electrical grid is as safe as it seems because if someone hacked into the systems running our electrical grid, our city would be paralyzed.

The automation of the Self Check-out system at the grocery store is an idea that is supposed to make buying your groceries faster and more efficient. I don’t know if these systems are any cheaper for the store. They certainly don’t make my groceries any cheaper. Fast, cheap and efficient are hallmarks of the Technojungle. What sorts of problems have you experienced with Self Check-out store systems? Don’t forget, you interact with a computer through a touch screen, so you lose the face-to-face interactions with a real human being. 

Air travel in a plane is touted at extremely safe. Recently, two planes of the same manufacturer and model have crashed causing the grounding of all similar aircraft and resignation of the manufacturer’s CEO. Also, amid severe tensions in the Middle East, an aircraft crashed killing everyone aboard. This just happened. It turned out the country the aircraft took-off from fired missiles that downed the plane.

As warned about by several technology experts in an earlier chapter, AI stands to be the most extreme example of humankind going too far with technology and the Technojungle. I would argue that, the more sophisticated the technology, the more careful we must be, and we can never be too careful.

We can look toward nuclear weapons ushered in by the atomic bomb unleashed during WWII. The destruction and devastation was so immense and catastrophic, however, it did accomplish an end to the war. The following decades left the world on a dangerous edge that still exists as Technojungle nuclear weapons might one day once again be used. The result has often been calculated as a doomsday affair where an attack would trigger an instant counter attack resulting in end the world. This scenario is called MAD for Mutually Assured Destruction.

There are other possible contributors to global catastrophes which are followed by a group called the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. They use a symbol called the Doomsday Clock to tell the world how close they calculate the world is from a man-made global catastrophe. While originally developed to monitor nuclear weapons, the calculations now take into account other areas of concern including, politics, energy, weapons, diplomacy, and climate science. Each year the scientists set the symbolic clock to a few minutes to midnight based on their calculations. Midnight represents the possible catastrophic outcome. The furtherest from midnight the clock has been set was in 1991 when the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) was signed by the US and the Soviet Union which dissolved to become Russia. The closest the clock has been set to midnight is two minutes. This occurred in 1953. At the time of this writing (2019), the clock is also set at two minutes to midnight.

As I edit this a quick check revealed that the clock, as of January 23, 2020 and prior to the world Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, was set to 100 seconds before midnight. This is less than the record set in 1953 of two minutes. We need to wake up!

It occurs to me that at some point the clock setting could indicate that we have gone too far and the clock can’t be turned back. It would be the point of no return and we humans would have to deal with whatever the outcome from unleashing some aspect of the Technojungle.

I’m not shouting a doomsday warning here. Let us always and constantly be aware and to carefully appropriate our Technojungle technologies into our lives and our world. Let us strive to thrive and to understand about being better human beings and living in the Technojungle.

We humans desperately want to survive. Even more we should thrive. If we go too far, this will not be possible. We do to use technology to make our lives better and to make us better humans.


4 Comments

  1. “We need to wake up!” I am fascinated by times of awakening, often called Great Awakenings, revivals, refreshing, and renewal. These times make us more fully human.

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  2. CS Lewis in his final Space Trilogy book The Hideous Strength showed how the allure of power/strength offered in advancing technology can end up dehumanizing in a hideous way.

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    • How much of how technology impacts our lives could be viewed as hideous in some way? I find it hideous that corporations are able to freely steal data and information from us in the guise of giving us a better more convenient and personal experience, and then use that data and information to make hideous amounts of money and manipulate our lives. These are Technojungle atrocities.

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