I’ve been thinking about automation and computers a lot recently; more specifically, their impact on us.
I had a conversation with some people at work that are a little longer in the tooth than I, and they recalled a time when you came to work and took out a pen and wrote things down. I’m incredibly sad I haven’t been part of this time; I write with a fountain pen, and use a specific shade of green ink that I imported from the states, I have to don gloves every time I refill my pen. And all I ever do with it is write to-do lists, or bullet point actions from a meeting. It’s so sad that I never write any ideas down.
Nowadays, we come to work and the very first thing we do is turn a screen on in front of us, and punch in a series of digits that is the key to our online real estate. We don’t share ideas anymore, we stuff them into a box on our desk, which talks to a million other boxes, recording the information and making assumptions about us.
It makes my skin crawl that whenever I now go online, the adverts at either side target parents with nine month old children, coincidence? Yeah right.
It seems that we’ve inherited a new tax, one that doesn’t make people angry whenever it’s collected, and one that doesn’t hit headlines every four years. There is no such thing as free, and while Google, or ‘the Cloud’, or free wifi hotspots all seem harmless enough; they all collect their tax in a very subtle and worrying way. They harvest information about us, it’s almost like the Matrix harvesting the electrical charge from our bodies to power machines; our ideas, our perceptions, our preferences, are harvested like corn to feed the supercomputers’ undying need for more and more information.
What worries me too is that we’re on the verge of machines now being able to fix themselves; 3D printers now exist, and are able to print intricate and complicated parts. Machines can now simply order new parts to be manufactured by a machine, and be installed by a machine. So through all of this, what’s the point in our existence?
We were once a skilled race that could build beautiful things, however more and more the jobs out there are simply mediums for putting information into ‘The Cloud’. It was said that the digital revolution would bring jobs and prosperity, however I struggle to see where that has realised. The jobless culture thrives, and it seems more and more jobs now entail staring aimlessly into a box.
What is the price of the free services that are offered for only a little information? An email address, your date of birth? How about the inability to secure lending, or secure a decent job because of the information that exists on your profile in the online space. Once something is written here it is never truly deleted, everything is backed up in data centres, archived for eternity. Today’s news will line tomorrows waste paper basket I hear you say? I don’t think so, that very information will decide where the waste paper basket is placed, and what it is made from.