My husband tells me that our bathroom scale has sent us an email informing that its batteries need replacing. This is when I better grasp the meaning of the ‘Internet of Things’ and start thinking about the autonomy and character bestowed to technological objects. I have never felt technology as being more “conscious” than myself, but I am beginning to wonder when they have become independent entities capable of acting without manipulation or instruction. Maybe we did tell it to inform us when the battery was running low and have forgotten, though that does not extinguish the feeling that receiving an email from our bathroom scale has me spooked.
It’s the narrative of at least one Disney movie and dozens of sci-fi / horror books and films. The story of Pygmalion and Galatea where man falls in love with his own creation and wishes it to life. In Greek mythology the tale ends happily. In movies like Prometheus and Ex Machina, not quite. The outcome hangs in balance when it comes to humans and technology. Hawking thinks artificial intelligence could end humanity. Elon Musk anticipates it sooner. But before we get to a world run by robots, we have to start somewhere.
The question I am asking is why does popular culture glorify technology to the extent that it does? And when I refer to ‘technology’ I mean the aura of its topic as well as its physical by-products. We are in awe of what technology can do. We put it on a pedestal. We worship it. To the extent that we downplay our role as its maker.
Technological products are the result of observations in human behaviour and the outcome of group / individual intelligence. It could be an observation extrapolated, but all technology has origins in biology. It starts in the brain, with consciousness, with our ability to put two and two together. The human experience has always been the driver of what has been created. It is our desire to be more human that drives invention, not the other way around.
I’d like to think that consumers don’t care about technology. What they do care about is what it does for them. This applies to everything from smartphone apps to cryogenics. It’s always about enhancing the human experience, even if it is the experience of having something every one else covets, or the desire to wield power over death.
If you look at consumer trends you don’t have behaviour being driven by functions on a watch or data. It’s about addressing the universal conundrum of living. How to be the best version of yourself. How to be less bored. How to get what you want when you want it (at the price you’d like it). Your human experience is the Zeitgeist. Whatever is ahead, whatever will be invented, developed or adopted, will have its origins in our desire to be more “human”.
**Note: Two things that put technology in its place are: running out of power and Mother Nature.