So long are the days of human interaction. We as a society are now instead, submerged into the forever growing world that is technology. While technology has many positives and has improved the way of life for many people around the world, there are also many negatives that I find to be more hurtful to society that many seem to realize. One person who I believe gets the negative impacts technology is having on society is Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor, Sherry Turkle. In her book, Alone Together, Turkle describes many different instances where technology and its use has created drawbacks within society. I believe that many of the points Turkle makes in regards to the negatives technology has on society are true, and that if we don’t do something about it, human interaction could be destroyed as we know it.
Sherry Turkle discusses a lot of important things, but just like she did, I would like to start with discussing the advancements we as a society have made when it comes to technology. Turkle starts off this excerpt by stating, “Now, sociable robots meet our gaze, speak to us, and learn to recognize us” (85). While I believe Turkle is slightly wrong with this statement, should have been talking about AI instead of robots, that is beside the point. She is entirely right in that we are currently in a world where events like these occur. Take the iPhone; for example, it does all of the actions she states. It meets our gaze when we use our eyes to unlock it. It recognizes our voices when we ask it a question, and when we do, it speaks to us as it gives us an answer. Turkle is indeed right where everyday items, like the iPhone, carry out these actions, and the iPhone is just one example in society where this is the case.
While I do see the benefits of this technology and don’t have much of a problem with it, it is when technology goes too far and starts to create problems. I thought it would be in the future, but Turkle has open my eyes to current examples of it already becoming apparent. I get hints of it becoming a problem when Turkle says, “Some people are looking for robots to clean rugs and help with laundry, Others hope for a mechanical bride” (86). These two different sentences bring different concerns to mind. When it comes to robots helping with every day, household chores, yes, of course it would be nice. It would also be nice if a robot went out and worked our jobs every day while we sat on the couch and collected the checks. The point is that it isn’t healthy. At face value, it sounds wonderful, but this could worsen an already bad problem in society, which is, we are lazy. I’m already starting to see signs that the majority of first world civilians are getting more and more lazy as the days go by. That is why I’m not at all shocked that people would want this. However, this is not very concerning compared to the sentence that followed it. Apparently mechanical brides are now on the table. I thought, or at least was hoping, that this wasn’t going to be even near an actual thing until I was long gone. Well, I was wrong. Here we are in 2019 and google results on the subject are filled with instances of it already happening. This may just be my morals and I, but I can’t get behind this one. I don’t see me, let alone many attending the marriage of a friend and their piece of metal bride. This is an example of technology going too far and something I hope we can prevent from ever happening.
Staying on the topic of robots, I find Turkle to be right on when she says, “We insert robots into every narrative of human frailty. People make too many demands; robot demands would be of a more manageable sort. People disappoint robots will not” (86). This is very true in my opinion. It seems that at every point in society where there’s possibility for any improvement, it is made with the use of either a robot or some sort of artificial intelligence. Humans could be doing just fine, but if it can be done faster and better, humans are no longer needed. For example, I used to order at the counter when I went to McDonalds, but now I order on a touchscreen kiosk. The 1 percent chance of the employee messing up my order is now 0. That 1 percent was eliminated by replacing a human with a computer. It’s not just places like McDonalds either. A lot of manufacturing jobs are being eliminated by robots. Robots are being automated to make the production of products faster and more efficient. While I hate to admit it, Turkle is right when she says, “People disappoint; robots will not” (86). Most of the problems you have with service at a restaurant or with a product would be eliminated since humans are no longer directly affiliated with them. The robots we as humans create do the jobs better that we would, due to one thing, consistency. We as humans are not very consistent. A few lines of code will always stay the same. However, if changes like this keep being made, what is their left for humans?
I would like to end by answering a question Turkle asks the reader with regards to the use of virtual, as well as any other form of interaction. She asks, “Does virtual intimacy degrade our experiences of the other kind and, indeed, of all encounters, of any kind?” (88). I believe that in most cases, it does. I feel like with a lot of things, using a portrayal of the actual thing can go two different ways. You can either get tired of it and no longer use it, or you can take up a liking to it. When you like something, you tend to use it, and with increase likeness, comes increased use. When it comes to the point where it is being used too often and for extended periods of time, I believe this is when it can have a negative effect on someone. For example, the use of video games has increased significantly over the past few decades. Its overuse can cause individuals to get distracted from the responsibilities they need to be aware of in their lives. This much time in a virtual world can make it hard for someone to assimilate back into the real world. I personally feel like it could possibly degrade all aspects and encounters of life. Maybe I’m bias in that I don’t like change, but why must we? As far as I’m concerned, in person, face to face interaction has worked for centuries. Why must we now take away from what once was the only thing humans had? While the advancements of technology are being made with good intentions, and have positive impacts on society, I believe they are also currently hurting society, and will continue to unless more people realize how caught up in it they actually are.
- Turkle, Sherry. “Alone Together.” Technology: A Reader for Writers. Edited by Johannah Rogers. New York: Oxford UP, 2015. pp.85-95.