As I sat in my literacy graduate class today, I doodled an Apple II with a human body, a Mac shirt, and wheels for feet. After all, it’s my belief that eventually, computers will take over people. Naturally, one’s first reaction is “Oh that’ll never happen. We have all the controls and we’re much more powerful than the computers we have in front of us. Besides, what’s this little thing going to do?” While that argument may be sound for most, I can’t agree. We’re giving much more power to computers than we’re really conscious of.
For one, we’re enthralled with having computing devices that do all the thinking power for us. With the latest innovation of the iPhone, it’s become even sexier to give the responsibility of our whole lives to a handheld device. We’re enamored with the capabilities of our Sidekicks, Razrs, and Dell laptops that we take for granted the advantages we have by being computer literate. We like how they flip, flop, turn, and swivel and have no interest in how they’re made, and we “would die” if anything happened to our cell phone, and “couldn’t survive” without it, despite our ability to do so for a couple of millennia or so.
Because of this increased pseudo-access across race and age groups, we have this idea that all the social problems we have will suddenly go away with the click of a mouse. We see pictures uploaded on these social networks and think that America as a country has surpassed the problems that afflict us everyday. For instance, I was asked about the digital divide in this country, and how there’s a margin of access along racial, socioeconomic, and age lines. All through the conversation, however, we kept straying away from the discussion of the social stratifications because we were wrapped in the aesthetic of computers. As relevant as the discussion about actual technology is, we can’t lose sight of the fact that technology can become a means of ostracizing rather than unifying people.
We’re using technology in our classrooms without proper understanding of how to use the technology to educate the future citizens of this world. In other words, we’d be better off going back to pencil and paper than giving kids laptops when all they’re going to do is hit Alt+Tab to alternate between writing notes and writing messages on MySpace and Bebo. I’m already against extensive use of calculators in my classroom, and last I checked Socrates and the ancient Egyptians did a pretty good job of teaching abstract methods without all these new gadgets. In the end, our future depends on whether our kids can think outside of the box, not in it, and I do mean that as a double entendre.
It’s ironic for me to write this because I’m using a fairly new method of tech communication to address this issue, I graduated with a degree in computer science, and I contact my kids through e-mail and a teacher MySpace page. However, this may be the very reason I’m here mulling over the future of the human race. Kids and adults have an easier time remembering URLs than multiplication of positive integers. They’re insanely attached to their devices and have conversations through their Bluetooth earpieces, but can’t write out what they think or are most passionate about. They can do their “research paper” in 5 seconds by looking at sites like Wikipedia and not have a clue as to what they were researching. They may even know how to play with Adobe Photoshop and make their profile pictures look kewt but if they’re asked who their favorite artist is, they’ll always reference “You know, that guy that did that painting …”
We’re also seeing great advancements in the field of face and speech recognition, artificial intelligence, and robotics, which only signals just how alike computers and people will start to become in many ways. At one point, every scientist has hoped to use their inventions for the evolution of the human race. Unfortunately, it’s always been used for our destruction. Maybe in time, we’ll actually use the computer we’ve had installed in us all along to reverse this process of dumbification.Powered by Sidelines