Section One - Our choice in human values
A story about autonomy & happiness (9 minutes)
Introduction & scope
In crash course one we already talked a little bit about the impact of technology on human values. We stated that technology changes human beings and that technology determines how we view the world and ourselves. We also talked about the idea that humans are technological beings.
In this,crash course, number two, we will take a closer look at the impact of technology on human values. This is a very broad perspective. We could ask ourselves all kinds of questions like:
- Should technology makes us more human?
- Or should technology become more human?
- Or should we become more like technology, so it works?
We could talk for hours and hours about things like people wanting to look like their selfie (Snapchat Dysmorphia), about AI making decisions (we do that in the crash course about transparency) or the relation between technology and our desire for control. We could talk about the importance of friction for humans, sexual relations with robots, robot love & robot ethics, bio-hacking, transhumans, and so on.
We will provide you with some materials on the topics above in section six (additional materials), but for now we only have one hour. So we need to focus and make decisions. That is why this crash course only looks at the impact of some modern, new omnipresent digital technologies (mostly social media, apps, smartphones) on two human values.
This in no way paints a complete picture but, as stated, that is not our intention. The main aim is to give you a first impression and to inspire you to think further about how technology impacts human values. The human values we selected are autonomy and happiness because we believe the connection with the omnipresent modern digital technologies is strongest in these values.
Considering autonomy, we take the position that making choices is what makes us human. So, technology that influences our ability to make choices needs to be thoroughly looked at.
- Should technology make choices for us?
- When? When not?
- Should technology strengthen our ability to make autonomous choices?
- How can technology help us to make better choices?
- What are better choices?
There is a lot to be considered here.
Note: of course we know that technology in many ways increases the ability to make choices. With a car you can work further away, with glasses you can do your shopping independently, walk again with an exoskeleton and so on. In this crash course, however, we focus, as mentioned, on social media, apps and smartphones and the influence on our ability to make choices.
In general, most people will agree that technology should contribute to happiness. Technology should contribute to positive values to make you healthier, give you more confidence, increase your connection with other people, in short: make you happier. On the other hand, that also means, that technology should not make you unhealthier, more afraid, more insecure, lonely or anxious, in short: miserable.
The central question then, is does (a certain) technology make you happier or not? How can you tell?
The next section
We discuss the above questions in this crash course and try to find some answers based on some dominant themes concerning modern omnipresent digital technologies. These themes are:
- The attention economy (section 2);
- Surveillance capitalism (section 3);
- Technology addiction (section 4);
- Quantified self (section 5).
in this crash course we will not find the answers to these questions. We will not be conclusive. That is not our goal. Our goal is to inspire you to think about the impact of modern digital technology on human values.
For some extra inspiration we invite you first to watch this video on some negative aspects of digital technology by Gary Turk (5 minutes):
And, a parody, that highlights the positive aspects of technology (2 minutes).
You may have noticed that these videos were not about the impact of technology on humans. They were about the impact of (certain) digital technologies on humans. After all, putting your smartphone away and going for a spin on your bike, is just swapping one technology (a smartphone) for another (a bike). That is why this crash course is mostly about some new omnipresent digital technologies (social media, apps, smartphones), otherwise things would become really confusing.
Also, maybe you noticed that the parody was 3 minutes shorter then the original. Could that be a first indication that there are more negative than positive effects?
That is the topic of section two.
Take aways from section one:
- Modern, digital technology has a big impact on human values;
- A good understanding helps you to assess the impact of technology;
- We inspire you by looking at the impact of (some) modern, digital technologies on autonomy and happiness;