With smartphones, social media, sensor networks, robotics, virtual worlds, and big data analysis, our relationship with technology is becoming more and more intimate: We are becoming techno-people, or cyborgs. These changes are a subset of the Information Revolution, which in a new report my colleagues and I have termed the “intimate-technological revolution.” Whereas the raw materials of the Industrial Revolution were cotton, coal, and iron ore, the raw material of the intimate-technology revolution is us: our bodies, thoughts, feelings, preferences, conversations, and whereabouts.
As with the Industrial Revolution, the Information Revolution can destabilize the institutions and social arrangements that hold our world together. At stake here are the core attributes on which our social, political, and economic worlds are built: our individual freedom, our trust in one another, our capacity for good judgment, our ability to choose what we want to focus our attention on. Unless we want to discover what a world without those intimate attributes is going to be like, it is vital that we develop the moral principles to steer the new intimate-technological revolution, to lead it in humane ways and divert it from dehumanizing abuses. That is our moral responsibility.
I suggest this proposition: Let us accept that we are becoming cyborgs and welcome cyborgian developments that can give us more control over our own lives. But acceptance of a cyborg future does not equal blind embrace. We need to retain a healthy degree of wildness, cockiness, playfulness, and sometimes annoying idiosyncrasy. We should aspire to be wild cyborgs. The challenge will be to apply intimate technology in such a way that we become human cyborgs. I propose that we adhere to the following seven theses as a guide to our interactions with technology.
1. We need to keep our social and emotional skills on a high level.
We all know that if we don’t exercise our physical body we will lose strength and stamina. This is also true for our social and emotional skills, which are developed and maintained through interaction with other people. We are now entering a stage in which technology is taking on a more active role in the way we interact, measuring our emotions and giving us advice about how to communicate with others. To stay human, we have to keep our social and emotional skills, including our ability to have trust in people, on a high level. If we don’t do that, we run the risk that face-to-face communication may become too intimate an adventure and that our trust in other people will be defined and determined by technology.
To read the rest, visit the original post on Slate.com.