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Technology, AI, and Remote Islands

We should remember where we come from before taking decisions that can profoundly impact our future.

I have a conflictive relationship with technology—I see the value of it in everyday life, but I often wonder where the limit is and where we are going.

When I came to the US, I had an old phone with buttons and no touchscreen. My husband had an iPhone, and he wanted to get me one—I resisted the temptation for a while because I was scared to become addicted. Eventually, I got my first iPhone, and my life changed—I can’t even count all the times that I look at my phone in a day—too many. I especially hate when I waste hours scrolling my FB feed—I open social media to check something, and I find myself sucked into the life of other people.

Social media is one of the reasons why my relationship with technology is conflictive. I love how positive movements can spread quickly, how bad behaviors get exposed, and how people can connect and support each other during tragedies—but social media is also a place where hate and racism can put down roots and gather people. The limit between freedom of speech and hate speech is a hot-button topic; I do understand it’s hard for the CEOs of giant corporations like FB and Twitter, to draw the line, but I think that racist words and incitement to violence should be condemned at all times.

Social media aside, I support all the technologies that can take us towards a more sustainable way of living using natural energies, like electric cars and solar panels. If technology can help us communicate, and live in harmony with the planet, I am all for it. The problems come when technology is just used to reach efficiency disregarding the disruption it can cause. AI scares me, and I understand why many people are afraid to lose their jobs because of robots. If the robots’ revolution takes us to a universal basic income, we won’t have to think about work anymore. But, will robots take over our civilization? This is a hot-button topic. Bill Gates thinks that increasing productivity will be good for society, but Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking warn us about the dangers of AI.

The thing is that there is always a human being behind technology, the way we build robots and program them, depend on us. History teaches us that when there is a source of power, someone will try to take over and take advantage of it. Are we ready to accept the challenge and move forward with AI? I am not sure about that, but I have to be honest, my mind sometimes goes to people living on a remote island, happy with what they have, without money, corruption, and violence.

I watched a documentary about a civilization born on a remote island in the South Pacific. It’s a community of 300 people, who help each other and work as a community. I looked at their happy faces performing rituals and hunting for food. I don’t know if I want to live like that, but part of me envies their relationship with nature and the community feeling. I don’t think AI will help us get in touch with nature and harmony. I know it wouldn’t make sense to go back to a life without comfort, but we should all at least make a mental effort and remember where we come from before taking decisions that can profoundly impact our lives and future generations.

Originally published at www.chiarabtownley.com

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