Take your pick of machine takeover movies: The Matrix, iRobot, Terminator, etc. There are dozens of these kinds of movies where artificially intelligent robots rise up against their masters and take over the planet. These artificially intelligent robots aren’t necessary for technology to rule the earth though, it is already happening on our planet right now.
How could technology take over without artificial intelligence?
Because it never needed artificial intelligence to take over. It just needed intelligence and that was easy enough to find. We, the humans, have provided the intelligence that machines harnessed to dominate the world we know. We have willingly allowed our planet to be taken over, and now we must accept the consequences of that. What choice do we have? How many people live in houses that are not sustainable without water pipelines, air conditioning, winter heating, electricity, or grocery stores?
Our society has become awe-inspiring because of the technology we created and used, but there was a cost. We are now dependent on it. Our planet is the Tower of Babel, and every single support beam is a piece of technology. Our tower will continue to get higher every year as everything gets “better” and “progress” continues, but let’s consider why we are convinced that we must build our technological tower higher?
Technology kills hundreds of thousands of people every year (cars, guns, industrial working conditions), it causes upwards of 50,000 species a year to go extinct, it poisons our drinking water and our bodies every day, it cuts down 13 million hectacres of forest every year, and all this without any kind of artificially intelligent robots. Everything that we could possibly fear that robots will do when they rule the planet is already happening.
Technology gives us great things, but when it comes to happiness, technology is much like income, in that it makes happier only until it brings us to a comfortable point. It has been proven that money and happiness correlate up to about $75,000. This is the amount of money it takes to allow a comfortable standard of living, but any income above that has no correlation with happiness. Similarly, technology can no doubt make us happier up to a certain point. There are certain inventions that make our lives drastically better, but many of the most modern inventions are not much more than a distraction. I have an especially hard time believing that more technology creates more happiness, when I see the statistics on depression in the United States, one of the most advanced cultures in the world. If 25% of the United States claims to be depressed in this era of modern technology then something must be wrong.
As technology becomes better and better, we relinquish more and more of our selves to the technological behemoth that we created. Our bodies simply become extensions of the machine. We no longer move with our legs and feet, we move with our cars. We no longer see with our eyes, we see with our cameras. We no longer think with our brains, we think with our computers. This is a transformation that pushes our technological advances to all of its limits, but it strips us of our humanity in a way that is not beneficial to us at all. The process creates an apathetic culture that I see developing quickly especially with the millennial generation. A culture that is incapable of doing anything without instant gratification and rewards. A culture that I fear will soon spread across the world as machines continue to gain control on the earth.
So how can we go up against technology?
If real life follows the plot line that other machine takeover movies always seem to have, then it is time to go to war. In the movies, that war is between humans and the artificially intelligent robots. In this real life scenario, that war is between humans and the intelligence that is driving technology, ourselves. That means this will be a war of introspection with the ultimate goal of increasing awareness to what we as a group are giving up to our technology. If we decide that this is in fact the path that we want, then there’s no problem and life will continue on the path of faster, smaller, longer, better until all of our resources are exhausted. If we decide that we want to change the path that we are on, then that too is possible at this stage. Changing the path will have to be slow and steady seeing as we are incredibly dependent on technology right now, but a large scale effort will force machines to bend to our will.
What must not happen is for us to continue on as a society without any mindfulness as to what is happening to our planet. We can make changes now while we are still the ones providing intelligence to the machines, but who knows how long until all the movies come true, artificial intelligence becomes the norm among machines, and we are no longer a necessary part in the body of technology.