Elina V Clavelli
Tech and Society
Surely by now many of you have seen the video of Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini robot dancing to “Uptown Funk.” I even bent my general rule of not reading user comments and peeked at your reactions on social media. Most of you decided the dancing robot dog was cool or entertaining. Yet a (decidedly smaller) number of you also compared this creature to the killing machine in “Metalhead,” a post-apocalyptic episode of Black Mirror. That was also meant to be a joke by the satirically-inclined social media user community.
Which is it, though? Do we look on in gleeful wonder, as the technological advances take us into the future? Or do we mask our quiet concern with feeble attempts at a pop culture joke? Spoiler alert, I won’t be able to break the tie.
You see, even before I took a look at the comments, I was jolted by the robot’s uncanny Black Mirror resemblance. My personal reaction was a curious mix of incredulity and a told-you-so attitude that frequently accompanies something futuristic that looks even a bit eerie.
Let’s backtrack, as I may have given you the wrong impression. I love the tech industry. It’s what has kept a roof over my head, metaphorically speaking, since I graduated from college. On and off for 8 years I paid the bills as a tech writer, working for small to medium-size Defense contractors in the DC Metro Area. Over the course of a few years, I got my Master’s in Technology Management (it’s like an MBA, but with the eventual goal of you becoming a CIO specifically, instead of CEO or any other member of C-Suite). Suffice it to say that I am fascinated by and respectful of anyone or anything that has to do with technology. But enough about me.
What about you? No, really. You as a productive member of society. What do you make of all this? Are we doomed to end up in the afore-mentioned post-apocalyptic existence, brought upon by any given form of Artificial Intelligence? Elon Musk has cautioned us against the dangers of AI, and he’s a pretty smart guy. Then again, there is plenty of intelligent men and women, who laugh at the idea of a robot functioning in a remotely comparable way to the average of 100 billion neurons in our brain.
If we are not doomed, then are we headed for a techno-utopia, where we prevent suffering or even cheat death, thanks to the socio-economic advantages of technological progress? Somehow, today’s turbulent political climate makes me a bit skeptical of any utopian scenarios. But again, this is not about me.
The only point I would like to make is that you need to think for yourselves. No one will answer the above questions for you.
The future is entirely in your hands, as you are free to design, build, and judge your creation according to your own volition.
What are we, if not a society of people with an open mind? Now, while you’re out there thinking, I’ll be playing with my dog, who is made of flesh and blood and clearly lacks any coordination necessary to dance to “Uptown Funk.”
Originally published on Medium on October 16, 2018.