The Eight Biggest Over-reactions to Technology of All-Time

October 07 2008 / by Mielle Sullivan / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Culture   Year: 2008   Rating: 11 Hot

Nothing gets humans up in arms like a new technology. Will it cure our ills and save us from destruction? Or end the world in one cataclysmic Earth-shattering moment? Clearly, no invention has accomplished either, but try telling that to the fanatical, hysterical or just plain irrational among us. Now, with technology advancing at an ever quickening pace, rational thinking is in short supply. Here then, to prove this point, are eight of the biggest freak-out moments in technology history:

Writing Will Make us Forget – Socrates

The written word and the ability to understand it is considered one of the most important developments ever achieved by mankind and a defining step for any civilization.  But not everyone was always a fan. Even that hero of western philosophy, Socrates, once argued that writing would make people lazy and forgetful!

“The fact is that this invention will produce forgetfulness in the souls of those who have learned it,” said Socrates, “They will not need to exercise their memories, being able to rely on what is written, calling things to mind no longer from within themselves by their own unaided powers, but under the stimulus of external marks that are alien to themselves. So it’s not a recipe for memory, but for reminding, that you have discovered.”

Sound familiar? It is the same argument that some people nowadays are directing at both Google and the World Wide Web.

Given that pretty much every major advancement subsequent to the birth of writing is built on writing itself (collectively we have advanced much faster through the use of writing) it certainly did anything but make people lazy. Forgetful? Perhaps, on an individual level.  But I sure am glad Plato broke out his quill to write down Socrates’ teachings, lest I couldn’t “remember” to complain about him now.

Get Out of the Way, Here Comes the Train!

Reportedly, when the Lumiere Brothers showed their films for the first time at the Grand Cafe in Paris in 1895, audience members ran out of the room in a panic. Why? To avoid being hit by the image of a train pulling into a station!

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Socially Assistive Robots: The Psychology of Robotic Helpers

November 20 2008 / by Mielle Sullivan / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 3

Socially assistive robots — robots that help care for the disabled, elderly or injured — will be a primary part of the coming robotics revolution, argued Maja Mataric founding director of the USC Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems at the Robo Development Conference in Santa Clara on Tuesday.  But because of subtle psychological factors, they need to be carefully designed.

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The Symbiont Scenario: Futurist John Smart on the Mental Health Benefits of Remote Peer Networks

October 16 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Relationships   Year: General   Rating: 2

Systems theorist, futurist and Acceleration Studies Foundation Executive Director John Smart presents a near-term scenario in which new comm technologies enable remote peer networks to effectively bond with and support mental patients, assisting in socialization and treatment from a safe distance.

Such “Symbiont Networks”, as Smart calls them, could be highly effective drivers of mental health, among other things, as they augment standard treatment that can consist of heavy medication and little face time for certain individuals.

Here’s a short clip from my recent interview with John in which he describes a Symbiont Scenario:

Detractors of the Symbiont Scenario will likely critique the “dehumanizing” aspects of distance communication and also point their fingers at unintended consequences. But, though I agree it’s highly probable that whole new classes of disorders (like autism, ADHD, etc) will continue to emerge as we co-evolve with the changing environment, I also fundamentally believe that because there’s no such thing as standing still in an environment of accelerating change it is incumbent upon us to use new technologies to help people, and our system, to self-actualize better.

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