Money Will Destroy The World: Why We Need To Transition To A Resource-Based Economy, Now.

In 2006, I set out to create music with the goal of putting the idea of trans-humanism and the Singularity into people’s heads.  The younger me was so blown away by the concept that I wanted to be a part of it somehow, and in time met a lot of people actively working on artificial intelligence, robotics, nano-technology, and more.  Initially, I was naive in thinking that everyone working towards a post-human era were all on one big team that all shared the same common goal of creating a better world for tomorrow.

I was so very wrong. It’s not a big happy club, it’s an arms-race to build the strongest robots smartest A.I. – to defend against what their competitors are building. I think that soon we are going to witness a war between the US Government and companies like Google and Apple.

It’s become fairly evident that, even when faced with blatant, obvious proof of corruption or abuse of power, most of you will simply do nothing. Look around you. Is this what you thought the world would look like in 2013 when you were 8? People complain about not being able to find a job, but never realize that maybe the entire economic model is now obsolete.  The jobs aren’t coming back, folks.  Things are happening so quickly that entire industries are going to disappear.  If you are a truck driver, or a fast food worker, things are not looking good for you, my friend.

The problem with our current economic system is that its not in any way based on nature.  Corporations, by law, have to turn a profit – even when things like the environment and public health have to take a backseat. Why do people need money? To motivate them to do things? It’s my firm belief that money is the ultimate loophole – to make lame people seem cool, to make dumb people seem smart and successful, and to make old dudes attractive to girls.  Wonder why a certain event is happening in the world? If you follow the money trail, you’re sure to find your answer.

For example, isn’t it a crazy coincidence how much lithium (which is used in every phone and laptop battery) and heroin, the world’s most addictive drug, is located in Afghanistan? Sure seems like a logical place to control via military to me. Isn’t it funny how they kind of… forgot to teach you basic finance skills in high school? If they REALLY cared about you, they wouldn’t fill prisons with people who have committed minor drug offenses – I’m pretty sure prison will ruin someone’s life more than smoking marijuana. If they REALLY cared about you, cigarettes would be illegal. Our education budget would be equal to, or greater than, our military budget. Every man, woman, and child would have a home and a healthy diet – because we have the resources to actually make that a reality. The reason they want people to be homeless is because it scares the middle class into corporate jobs that, at the end of the day, really don’t DO anything for the world.

Money is surely the root of all evil, and it is currently in the driver seat behind a very scary thing: Technology. Our current technology is set to outpace our human skills within not decades, but years. And who is in charge of this technology? Extremely wealthy, power-hungry people, and giant corporations that, by law, are required to put profit before anything else. Including human life. If they haven’t had a problem, say, destroying a small town’s water supply in the pursuit of oil in the past, what makes you think they will change their ways in the future? As automation becomes more prevalent, millions if not BILLIONS of people will be unemployed. The only logical thing to do at this point will be to switch to a system where money is obsolete or introduce a global, living wage for every person on the planet. The wealthy elite in power will not want to be “worth” the same as a poor farmer in China. Their net worth is what keeps their ego alive. But the government knows it’s obsolete. Through the internet, we can self-govern ourselves much more efficiently that the current government model.

So what are the wealthy elite going to do when they don’t need physical human labor anymore? The staggering world population is clearly destroying the planet and its eco-system. What happens when they have humanoid robots to do all their work, and fight their wars for them? I’m afraid they’re going to kill everyone they don’t need in the future.

But it doesn’t have to happen, and we need your help NOW before it’s too late. It may already be too late, but we have to try. We need to build a new economic system.

Imagine a new economic model – a resource-based economy. A system that ensures everyone is taken care of and is able to lead a happy life. How does this system work? The first phase of this plan would involve locating all the natural resources the planet has to offer. This will require an extremely powerful computer system to manage where all Earth’s resources are and how much is left to use. A global world government would need to be formed, and with it a new constitution. This constitution would make it mandatory that no matter what, natural resources must be used in the most efficient and sustainable way possible, and that everyone on earth has to be properly fed and kept healthy. Every product must be engineered to be recycled, repaired, or reused as much as possible. Using our new army of robots, we will increase our food production to levels previously thought unimaginable as the robot farmers work around the clock, never getting tired or sick. Another group of robots will be tasked to clean up and recycle the world’s garbage and add any new resources to the database via the internet. Everyone will be given internet access, and if anyone ever has a problem or needs help a robot will be made available to them. With poverty absolved, and most jobs eliminated, people will finally be able to work on what they WANT to work on – whether it be learning, teaching, creating art, inventing, exploring, or simply just fishing at a mountain stream.

You may ask, “If there’s no money, why will people be motivated to work when there is work required?” I believe that if we built a system that TRULY cared for them in ever way, there would be a line of people a mile long ready to help ensure the system continues to function.

But I don’t believe we will build this system. Because it will be hard. And because it feels good to have a nicer car than your neighbor. And because as long as you and your family are doing okay, you really don’t care about other people. And because you’re afraid that without fancy clothes and expensive sunglasses people will suddenly be forced to judge you based on your character, intelligence, and goodwill towards others.

And because you still haven’t figured out that even though it feels good to win that Monopoly game, all that wonderful money goes back in the box in the end; where it waits until the next deluded wage-slave comes to clack their tiny metal car across the board.

3 Reasons Why You Should Either Chill Out or Have A Panic Attack Right Now

It’s so easy to get stressed out these days and lose sight of some basic truths about the times we are living in.

 

CHILL OUT: Our generation’s lifespan will be significantly longer than any other in human history. So stop comparing your life to your parent’s. Sure, your dad probably already had a house, 401k, and a diversified portfolio at your age. Maybe they already had YOU at your age, too. Holy shit, stop freaking out about it. We are living through a Technological Renaissance unrivaled by human history, and they weren’t.  They actually didn’t really have much else to do back then but pop out a few kids and collect paychecks at a desk job. People under 30 that are alive right now have a good shot at living to be at least 150 years old – and if my homie Aubrey de Grey at SENS has his way, the first 1,000 year old person may have already been born.  So, sure, your parents might have been a little farther along than you, but by comparison of lifespans, you’re still only like 8 years old.

By the time we are ready to retire, we will probably be Asteroid Cowboys taking weekend trips to Club Elon (formerly Mars).

PANIC: This economic model isn’t sustainable longterm and will probably collapse soon. Most people are probably realizing that jobs are shrinking and disappearing, but I bet you don’t realize how bad it actually is (people applying for work might). Our economy is based around the concept that money can make more money.  But deep down, we all know this can’t last forever. What happens when huge ‘disruptive’ technologies start displacing not thousand, but millions of people? Take China for example.

These noodle robots are a preview of what’s about to happen all around us. When you have an economic system that demands that a corporation HAS to make money to appease its shareholders, at a certain point labor will become more expensive than technological alternatives.  Sounds like we are all out of a job, right? Well, that sounds scary, until we all stop to realize something: What’s the fucking point of technology if it doesn’t actually make our lives better?  The only way we can dodge a gigantic economic collapse is to transition our model towards a Resource-Based Economy (http://futurewewant.org/portfolio/resource-based-economy/), where we start actually spreading the benefits of technology to the entire society, not just the elite at the top. As you can imagine, they’re not going to give it up very easy, and are already building drone/robot armies to eradicate anyone that stands in their way. Luckily the riots, civil unrest, ecological damage and world-wide famine will end our suffering long before that happens. 🙂

CHILL OUT:  Virtual reality is coming really really soon and so are Self-driving cars. This will fundamentally change what cities look like. When Facebook bought Oculus Rift, a million gamer fanboys may have cried out in anguish, but for everyone else, the first hint of what’s going to come after Social Media looks pretty cool.  No species on Earth has ever been able to leave the planet before, but this is something different.  Human beings are about to leave REALITY as a whole and create infinitely complex new ones.  Alot of moving around will suddenly stop, when people stop needing to physically go to work/school/Bar Mitzvahs.  Self driving cars will be more like living rooms you just hang out in, and this will change the very nature of what a city needs to be defined as.  Imagine the first neighborhood that’s not a collection of homes, but a collection of rooms and utilities that manifest themselves as-needed, based on what you need to do at a given time. No one needs a BBQ 24/7, and no one needs a basketball hoop all night.  Imagine not a neighborhood, but a living, moving architecture that becomes the physical representation of its inhabitants’ desires on demand.

Summer Like The Season’s “Friend Of The Monster” EP Review

Summer Like The Season is kind of genius. It’s actually surprising to even hear this kind of music on Bandcamp, because it could easily be getting reviewed over at Pitchfork in a few years.  Reminiscent of Animal Collective, Sufjan Stevens, and even Aphex Twin, songs like “If you’re not weird, you’re not honest” include swelling choir vocals, chopped up drum loops and squelching, warping low end synth work.  “Chewing gum and opium” could easily be a Purity Ring song, which isn’t saying its a ripoff, just that its familiar and comforting.

This is honestly one of the best sounding, “homemade” albums I’ve ever heard. While some of the mixing could be tweaked, the sensibilities of the production and arrangement display a true understanding of structure, pacing, and aesthetics.  The Terrence McKenna sample is a nice touch as well, fittingly surrounded by a chorus of machine-elves. Friend of the Monster EP is available for free download over at Bandcamp.  9.7/10

Western Jaguar’s Glacia Offers Chilly Art Rock From Vancouver

Western Jaguar hails from Vancouver, B.C., where they emit introspective and chilly art rock. Describing the sound as a blend between Album Leaf, Bright Eyes, and perhaps even a darker, early Death Cab For Cutie. Something that definitely works is the fact that the synth work sounds very much glued to the rest of the mixes. This can be achieved with great mixing, or recording the audio of a keyboard synth/reamping. With so much electronic music production these days, its production tricks like this that really make a track breathe and sound full of life.  There also isn’t a lot of clutter in the mix, which demonstrates considerable restraint.

Lead vocalist Jeffrey Trainor could experiment with some more interesting vocal ideas, but for now – like the rest of the tracks – remains comfortably strapped into the sonic palette he has painted in the foggy landscape Western Jaguar was born out of. Western Jaguar’s Glacia is available at https://westernjaguar.bandcamp.com/ for $6.   7.8/10.

https://westernjaguar.bandcamp.com/

Darkpine EP Review

Darkpine is an electro-pop/rock/ambient band that confidently shifts between sonic spaces rapidly within the span of their self-titled EP.  Their sound reminds me of Bastille or Foster The People, albeit a bit more lofi and 80’s. The drums are a blend of live and electronic, which can be a difficult effect to pull off, yet they manage to.  The stand-out track for me is Postcards, which makes me want to cruise along the coast in a convertible. The Darkpine EP is available on Bandcamp for $5.   8.0/10.

 

 

Darkpine EP

The Last Survivors’ Second Summer EP Review

The Last Survivors blend spacey electronica with lively guitar work and chipper vocals in a manner reminiscent of Stars and Death Cab For Cutie. Saying the production draws influence from M83 wouldn’t be far off either, although the mix is drier on reverb than the former. The Last Survivors would benefit from more out-of-the-box sounds (as opposed to loops and software plugins) and some bigger, more-real space between the performances and the computer – which leads me to believe they would be great live. I particularly like the track “Dirt”, where the grittiness lends itself to the otherwise sparse production methods. One weak point would be the dubstep breakdown, which seems a bit forced and out of place in the genre. I’d like to see The Last Survivors stick to the dreampop/postrock aesthetic as opposed to alternative.  Overall, a decently produced release from a promising new artist. The Last Survivor’s Second Summer EP is available on Bandcamp for pay-what-you-want.  7.5/10.

The Last Survivors Second Summer EP

Lightning In A Bottle: The New Coachella?

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Do Lab’s quintessential audio-visual-experience, Lightning In A Bottle.  And having just come from Coachella’s desert wasteland, I have to say it was quite refreshing.  Situated in a cooler environment (Temecula is technically cooler than Indio, look it up) and on a gorgeous lake, LIB already has a few things going for it.  And without the draw of major-label acts like Coachella, the general admission noise-floor is considerably lower, and more manageable.

Photo by Ancient Lasers
Photo by Ancient Lasers

The actual venue size is not only smaller and easier to navigate, but security is mild, and the general mood is pleasant and carefree.  Attendance capped out at around 13,000 (approximately), making it a fraction of the size.  Complaints, while there, were few.  Upon arrival to the ticket-booth at a local community college, the lines were unfathomably long due to an internet error that prevented staff from scanning tickets at a reasonable rate.  

Photo By Ancient Lasers
Photo By Ancient Lasers


Highlights included seeing Purity Ring, Tycho, and Nicholas Jaar from literally the front row – as the crowds are sparse and it is easy to simply walk up to the gate with ease, even in the middle of a set.  

Seconds later she teleported , I swear to God.
Seconds later she teleported , I swear to God.

 

Photo by Ancient Lasers
Photo by Ancient Lasers

At Coachella, you’ll be trapped top-side while pissing into empty beer cans for 3 hours.

 

Did I mention there was a water-park?
Did I mention there was a water-park?

Yeah, there was a full-blown water-park.

Little lost girl at LIB 2013
Little lost girl at LIB 2013

While Lightning In A Bottle goes through growing pains, and the zeitgeist of the music festival shifts its tastes from gigantic, stressful festivals to smaller, more manageable realms; they can be rest assured I will be a repeat customer to see where the movement leads.  

Waves In The Reflection, Chapter Two: Updated Font

 

Ancient Lasers Waves In The Reflection Two: Updated Font

 

Ancient Lasers is the collected effort of Daniel Finfer and Daniel Anderson. 

We also got to work with one of the internet’s most transcendent artists – Petra Cortright.

Ancient Lasers Cover

Petra Cortright is either very ahead of her time, or very behind. Or both.  Her art pieces usually use some combination of Netscape-era GIF’s, glittery-cheesy-glitched-out-graphics and Myspace=ishASCII fonts.  Her YouTube channel is a hot mess of post-human exhibition- complete with bizarre video plugins, presets, and maybe its imovie after effects.  It’s kinda like one of those webcam girl pop-up-ads, if it was live-streaming from a bizarre, fucked-out future where America Online and the Super Nintendo are still the coolest dudes in the room:

 

As we were wrapping up the Ancient Lasers album, I started looking for images similar to her glitch-mountains, which had always fascinated me – since around 2007 – when most of the songs for this record were penned.  Like a nature photographer hiking through the uncanny valley, pieces like the one below remind me of some dicked-up digital program.. trying to remember what real life was like way back when:

Digital Mountains
Digital Mountains

Somewhere deep inside Google Image Search and FFFFound, I realized that she’s probably not dead yet and that I could just have her create a new one.  I decided to send her a picture of Mount Baker, in Bellingham, WA. Primarily because both myself, and Daniel Anderson spent the majority of our lives in the place; but also because I use to stare at this mountain from our farm growing up:

View from farm in Ferndale, Washington
View from farm in Ferndale, Washington

Underneath the gaze of this mountain, the chain of events that led me to discovering my musical ability at age 17 transpired.  That’s right, folks! I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do with my life until one summer, when I was bored and downloaded Fruity Loops from Limewire. I had always been able to play songs on the radio by ear via keyboard, and had taken orchestra in elementary school (where I played violin and a hilariously giant upright bass), but had never thought about making music.  After a few days, it kind of just clicked – pre-Music, I had wanted to be an author and wrote a lot of Sci-Fi stories – and was usually the best in my art class (no offense, Ferndale, but there wasn’t much competition).

JUST FUCKING THEN, I discovered three bands that would forever shape my future: Nine Inch Nails, The Postal Service, and Idiot Pilot.

I had just transferred to a “hippy high school”:

Actual Screenshot of My High School's Google + Review

 So my brother had given me a copy of The Downward Spiral to take on the trip.  Now, this was destined to be a pretty terrible trip. Something about all my teachers being permanently happy was cool, fine, alright im learning about nanotechnology and resource-based economies; and the combination of listening to lyrics like “God is dead, no one cares; if there is a hell, I’ll see you there” while sitting in a circle of kids burning sage and banging on guitars/djimbe’s was pretty fucking rad.

Anyways, I’m in a shitty tent, alone in a new, weird school, and godam im tired, maybe ill pull out this huge blue sony discman n listen to nin cuz mike said it’s be coool…..

How To Destroy Hippies
How To Destroy Hippies

What thaua fuaaak? Music made by machines? A concept album about a lonely human fighting against it? Battling with the inherent lack of meaning that is OUR reality? Thanks, Trent.

Yet it wasn’t until I happened to look at the album liner notes (back when they were paper) and seeing “Pretty Much Everything By Trent Reznor” all over the place that I realized that with a computer, you don’t need to have a band.

You can just be the band.

Once I got home after somehow not killing myself, I heard about The Postal Service – mainly because one of the dudes was Ben Gibbard, who was a Bellingham local.  It was a snow day at Whatcom Community College, and we were shoe-sledding down an icy hill on Indian St. because that’s what you do in Bellingham in September of 2003.  My friend knew some guy that lived nearby, so we all went to warm up. Keep in mind, this was probably 6 months before Give Up had been released nationally.

Pre-Hipster-Era
Pre-Hipster-Era

The moment I heard The Postal Service in that kid’s house, I realized that not only was electronic music becoming popular with kids that used to talk shit about me listening to Daft Punk’s Discovery in high school (because this weird video game music will never be cool); but that someone from Bellingham, Washington, had made an album that was suddenly gaining mainstream attention.  I was there, folks, and it was weird watching The Postal Service go from local heroes to being the band I turn off in the car because I’ve heard Such Great Heights 749,999 times this week on 107.7 The End.

Which brings it all back circle.

One day two kids from Bellingham named, quite eerily, Michael Harris and Daniel Anderson (My brother’s name is Michael and my middle name is Harris), won the EMP SoundOff! competition and were being played on 107.7. My sister heard Idiot Pilot – To Buy A Gun – Strange We Should Meet Here and came home yabbing about it to me, saying “its like gonna be ur fav band cuz NIN and Postal Service”.

I listened to “Strange We Should Meet Here” a few times through, and then read somewhere on Myspace that the album was made on Fruity Loops.

The Original, Offical Album Cover (If you're from Bellingham)
The Original, Offical Album Cover (If you’re from Bellingham)

*Queue the sound of something clicking at 450 bpm*

See you later, Chihuahua’s Mexican Restaurant (their actual website). 

That very month, I moved to Los Angeles to work on music (in between a few expensive and extremely inconvenient trips to Santa Clara University for some weird networking thing called “college”).

My first music thing whatever fuck you
My first music thing whatever fuck you

Idiot Pilot had just released Tail Of A Jet Black Swan. I saw a post from Daniel Anderson one day asking if anyone wanted a remix done. Coincidentally, I had just finished an album I am still proud of, Post Human Era – To Build A Fire, with my producing mentor Brian Delizza. I had taken a few guitar lessons from Daniel in Bellingham the summer before, and decided to not be a bitch and send him a few songs.  He sent me back a remix of Building The Machine:

Needless to say, I was pretty stoked; and asked him if he wanted to do, like, 13 more, start a new band, and oh yeah here’s Petra’s album cover:

By Petra Cortright
By Petra Cortright

 

Memetic Evolution: The Post-Biological Paradigm

Who are we, where did we come from, and where are we going?

It’s a complex, three part question that we may never be able to fully answer. We do, however, get closer every day. We build things. We revise them, and build them better. We make art to express ourselves, and wage war to defend ourselves. The world today is growing radically different than the world of the ancients – and even the world of our American pioneers. If one were to look at the charts and graphs scientists have developed to demonstrate our ever increasing technological prowess, they may find themselves startled and afraid. The charts are climbing through the roof, shifting towards an exponential trend of growth. Some argue that the Darwinian mode of genetic evolution is being replaced by a new form of evolution dubbed Memetic Evolution. Memes are human habits -art, music, literature, and all other facets of our culture. And our memes, it seems, are copying themselves at an alarming rate.

The time it takes to communicate a thought from one human being to another is shrinking exponentially. The activities of writing letters and sending telegrams have been replaced by the newer, faster methods of email and text messaging. What took a matter of weeks if not months a hundred years ago now takes a matter of minutes if not seconds. If one were to extrapolate that trend of growth into the future, surely in the next hundred years it seems that we may become able to communicate instantaneously, even telepathically.

Yet, in this human frenzy of growth and exploration, we have to occasionally stop and smell the roses. How did we get here in the first place? Why were humans blessed with the gift of knowledge, and the poor chimpanzee left to poke around in the dirt?

Granted, some have argued that chimpanzees and elephants exhibit traits of self awareness and consciousness. This was determined by a mirror test, in which a marking was made on the animal’s face, and consequently shown its own reflection. If the animal immediately began grooming the marking, scientists decided that it must be aware of itself. Yet are chimpanzees aware that humans are superior to them as a species? Do they regard us as we may regard aliens or religious figures, as supreme beings? “Oh dang, a human is coming, I better act busy, and make it look like I’m doing something important.” Regardless of their inner perceptions, all animals except humans lack the mental syntax required for a complex lingual system. We are able to communicate knowledge, information, thoughts, feelings, and emotions to one another through our languages. Yet, how did we get this way? Why are we the chosen ones, blessed with the power to ponder life, time, space and God? Why are we the cursed ones, forced to question our own existence and purpose on this planet, in this universe?

Our ancestors first began making music and art some 40,000 years ago. Was this a result of some divine entity imparting its wisdom into our souls? Probably not. Most researchers have come to agree that such a change took place over thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years worth of genetic mutations. Was it the fact that our brains grew to be much larger than our predecessors? That was also not the case. Neanderthals had a similar sized brain as the Cro Magnon man, yet displayed very little culture. The Cro Magnon man performed many rituals when one of their loved ones died. They places thousands of beads into the grave, and spent a large amount of time preparing the ceremony. Neanderthals, on the other hand, simply chucked the dead body into a pit. It seems that they had much less regard and understanding of life in this regard. They did not exhibit any signs of art, music, or any culture for that matter compared to the Cro Magnon man.

So then, what was it that set us apart? Why did we ascend to a higher state of existence compared to our animal neighbors? Perhaps it was not the actual size of our brains, but the wiring that gave us knowledge. Hunting was probably the primary reason we invented tools and communication. We designed, built, and redesigned stone tools until they gave us effective results. Then, we used methods of communication to impart this knowledge to our descendants. Then, while hunting, we developed signals and signs to aid in the kill. Thus, we began to devise hunting plans, and tactics. We began to work together. This would have eventually become language as we know it, when our first vocalizations could be heard echoing throughout the ancient landscape. A verbal language would have greatly sped up the communication process. That would have in turn allowed for more efficient hunting and gathering practices, as more knowledge would have been conveyed in a shorter amount of time. This would have resulted in more free time, which would have allowed hobbies like bead making and art to become commonplace.

Thus, the birth of culture. Bead making could have led to a value system, where beads were traded for goods and services. As time went on, our ancestors may have found gold and silver, and traded those. Money is born. The more money an individual had, the more power was associated with that person. Now we start getting into wars to gain more power, more control over land and hunting areas. People start to make more and more art and music so that they can forget about the wars, and the pain of lost loved ones. They may have found that while they were making music or art that time seemed to slow down, and they were able to connect with some hidden force that felt eternal, and more real than reality itself. For in those fleeting moments of creativity, they were becoming eternal by creating something that would live on long after they were gone. These ancestors of ours could connect with one another in ways the physical world could not have allowed them to in the past. Unbeknownst to them, they were building the framework of what would someday become society itself – a network of thought and culture.

Today, this network is more present than ever, and growing rapidly. Even though biologically we may be the same as we were some 50,000 years ago, our minds have expanded out into the universe, and deep into our own souls. As a race, we have become aware of our own limitations – time, space, and ourselves. And as we tirelessly work to break through these boundaries, we may not realize how similar the act of building a space shuttle is to building a stone axe. They are both tools we use to advance ourselves, and now more than ever, it feels as though we are on the verge of another mental big bang. Just as our ancestors broke through the barrier separating action from speech, we may be on the verge of breaking through the barrier that separated our bodies from our souls. For someday soon, we may truly get the chance to meet our true selves and shake our own hands. Someday soon, we may decide not to be human, or anything, at all.

 

Making Friends We Never Talk To: The Dangerous Social Effects Of Robotics

Sherry Turkle was recently interviewed by NPR on the podcast “Do We Need Humans?” with other fellow TED speakers.  What struck me as fascinating about this podcast is that she touches on a subject all of us are aware of but rarely talk about: Technology and relationships. More importantly, the social effects of technology. How is technology making us feel connected to each other, and is this a good thing?

baby seal
Wisdom falls on deaf ears: An elderly woman talks to a robotic baby seal for comfort.

Sherry begins by explaining something she saw one day that changed everything she believed. She was watching an elderly patient at a hospital interacting with a robot. It looked like a baby harp seal, and it had big, cute eyelashes. It responded to her language, and cheered her up. It comforted her. The older woman had lost a child, which could explain her longing for something to hold again. It made her feel understood. Sherry couldn’t believe how well she was responding to this robot, and realized the possibilities of this robot’s application.

“I felt profoundly depressed.  This was a tremendous emotional turning point in my research,” says Sherry.  She is now very worried about where this is all headed, and during her TED talk “Connected, but Alone?” she described it best:

“I felt myself at the cold, dark center of a perfect storm, in which we expect more from a technology relationship than we expect from each other.  I believe it is because technology appeals to us most where we are most vulnerable.  We are lonely, but afraid of intimacy.  We are designing social networks that help us feel connected in ways we can comfortably control.  But we aren’t comfortable, and we aren’t in control. We are cheering on this emotional connection to a machine, but why are we outsourcing what defines us as people?”

When Sherry gave her TED talk the year before, however, it was like a public confessional – because the year before, she told us how amazing robots will become.

So what changed her mind?

“I have interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people about their plugged in lives.  These little devices are so psychologically powerful, they not only change what we do, they change what we are.  Some of the things we do with our devices are things we would have found odd only a few years ago.  People text during company board room meetings.  People have talked about the important skill of eye contact while you are texting.  We even text at funerals.  We remove ourselves from our grief and our revery, and go into our phones. Why does this matter? Because I think we are setting ourselves up for trouble, not only in how we relate to each other, but how we relate with ourselves.  People want to be  everywhere at the same time.  The thing that matters most to people is control of where they put their attention.”

couples texting in person
So close, yet so far away.

But what if someone is so lonely, they must resort to a device to help them feel better?  Certainly there are people who would otherwise be completely isolated from the outside world without technology.  Sherry understands that there are inherent benefits to these technologies, but in the future, why would we want to do that to ourselves?  Why would we intentionally construct false relationships?

When we construct robots, we are changing ourselves.  We must realize the needs we are serving and become aware of what these needs are.  Sherry wants to hear a more articulated conversation about these human needs.  “I always hear TED talks that talk about this and always end with people saying ‘we will become more human’ if we let these robots advance.  I’m not so sure.  Why do we want that old woman talking to a robot?  She deserves to have people around, and we need to hear the stories of her life to learn from her.”

“Technology is making the bid to redefine human connection.  How we care for each other and ourselves.  How we determine our values and our direction.  We have every opportunity ahead of us, and we have everything we need to start – each other.  We have the greatest chance of success if we recognize our vulnerability; that we listen when technology says it will take something complicated and make it simpler.  Our fantasies are costing us, and we need to find ways that technology can lead us back to our own lives and bodies.  Lets talk about how we can use digital technology, the technology of our dreams, to make this life a life we can love.”

We must find a balance between our technologic and the personal worlds as the lines increasingly blur. Social media profiles still leave much to the imagination, yet can provide more instantaneous information about a person than an average 5 minutes of small talk. Google Glass — which allows one to share videos, text, make calls and browse the web through the user’s eye — is an emerging technology that may prove beneficial in establishing the physical and internet-based demarcations … by completely eliminating those boundaries and turning an individual into a breathing, living embodiment of the internet. You could say we are becoming the internet. Or the internet is becoming us. Whichever you choose, there is a new age of interaction upon us, and we most certainly will have our share of growing pains. Perhaps some new device like Google Glass will help people learn to truly see through each other’s eyes…But most likely, you’ll just use it to watch the Lakers game during your next dinner date.

Do you think there are more pros or cons to social media? SHARE BELOW

 

About Sherry Turkle

Sherry Turkle studies how technology is shaping our modern relationships with others, with ourselves, with it. Described as the “Margaret Mead of digital culture,” Turkle is currently focusing on the world of social media and sociable robots. In her most recent book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, Turkle argues that the social media we encounter on a daily basis are confronting us with a moment of temptation.

Drawn by the illusion of companionship without the demands of intimacy, we confuse postings and online sharing with authentic communication. We are drawn to sacrifice conversation for mere connection. But Turkle suggests that digital technology is still in its infancy and there is ample time for us to reshape how we build it and use it. She is a professor in the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT and the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self.