On Being Mad At Technology…

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“Technology is ruining everything!”

Let’s start with a list about how technology is screwing up our world:

It’s easy to want to unplug, unsubscribe, drop out… tune out.

Specifically, The New York Times recently published the article, Wielding Rocks and Knives, Arizonans Attack Self-Driving Cars. The headline reads like the opening scenes of a The Terminator or Star Wars movie. The humans are rebelling against the machines. Technology is taking over, but the human resistance is growing. Now, the technology is not smart enough to fight back… to resist. But wait. Just you wait. As machine learning, artificial intelligence and engineers work around the clock, they will figure out a way to protect these technology systems. They will figure out a way for these systems to protect themselves… maybe even outsmart us simple humans.

We’re running around with knives out. We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it!

From the article: Some people have pelted Waymo vans with rocks, according to police reports. Others have repeatedly tried to run the vehicles off the road. One woman screamed at one of the vans, telling it to get out of her suburban neighborhood. A man pulled up alongside a Waymo vehicle and threatened the employee riding inside with a piece of PVC pipe. In one of the more harrowing episodes, a man waved a .22-caliber revolver at a Waymo vehicle and the emergency backup driver at the wheel. He told the police that he ‘despises’ driverless cars, referring to the killing of a female pedestrian in March in nearby Tempe by a self-driving Uber car.”

What’s really behind this strange behavior that has us attacking technology?

According to the article (with additional color commentary from the always brilliant Douglas Rushkoff): “Some analysts say they expect more such behavior as the nation moves into a broader discussion about the potential for driverless cars to unleash colossal changes in American society. The debate touches on fears ranging from eliminating jobs for drivers to ceding control over mobility to autonomous vehicles.” These attacks highlight human nature more than a direct response to incidents that engender violence as a response. It’s normal to have a fear of the unknown. The world now runs on anxiety and fear and this (very serious) medical scourge is (for many) driven by our inability to control or know what’s going to happen next. Our system reacts in a primal way, whether it’s a panic attack or physical shutdown/assault. Think about it: wielding rocks and knives? It sounds like something out of Planet of The Apes and less the reaction of a modernized society. 

Still, there’s something bigger happening.

It’s not the technology that we should be mad at. We’re bashing up these cars, because it’s easier (more acceptable?) than bashing up ourselves and others. In truth, it’s not us against technology. It’s just us. We are all struggling to understand and accept a world that we’ve created. A world where we see progress simply as the speed and growth of technology, automation, wealth, and how to make our lives better, faster and having more meaning. Technology doesn’t really solve for that. We, the human beings, need to solve for this outcome. We’ve mis-defined innovation. We’ve mis-diagnosed the potential for technology. We’ve mis-red the power (and opportunity) for us to be connected. This is what needs to be adjusted, realigned and solved for. How do we, as humans, look at stories like attacking self-driving cars or fighting the dark web or ending hacks from a human persecutive? How do we make a better commitment to ensure that all innovation and technology helps us truly move forward as one (while at the same time ensuring that this innovation can’t be weaponized). We seem more polarized than ever, because as we uncover a more connected world, we see billions of other people who are not like us. Instead of embracing this opportunity and welcoming it like the beautiful multi-cultural society that we are, human nature pulls us back to being insular… keeping to ourselves, and hunkering down in what we know (our communities of yesteryear). We can’t be mad at technology. We have to be mad at ourselves. Mad at our inability to evolve. Mad that when given the chance to truly expand and explore, we retreat back to our lizard brains as the fight or flight impulse kicks in. That’s what’s truly sad. We’re mad about what may happen to our jobs, to our roads, to our kid’s futures, and instead of trying to solve for that, we smash rocks through the windows of self-driving cars.

Don’t be mad at technology. Let’s get mad at our inability to work together, put in place laws that put people first, and police out the bad. Because that is the true source of our frustration and problems.