It is the end of a semester and which means it is time for a reflection! History of the Information Age was actually my first and only history class I ever took at UMW. I am a transfer student and I never even imaged that I would end up taking a 400-level history class. Throughout this course, we discussed history, technology, communication, information, sharing, and how technology revolutionized every area of human existence. We also had a lengthy (and heated) discussion about citations that will forever be burned into my memory. I never anticipated that this course would be so applicable to all my other classes (seven in total) and I have no regrets about taking this course.
On the last day of class, Dr. McClurken proposed a question that we were not able to discuss at length, and that question was along the lines of, “if what we need is attention, can that be provided by a computer?”
I would like to think that the answer is no. Humans need interaction and attention to some degree, and from my perspective that need can only be fully fulfilled by another human. We can argue that computers are one of man’s inventions, therefore it could be viewed as an extension of humans. But without autonomy, without the human nature aspect of humans, computers cannot solve our need for attention and I do not believe they could sustainably fulfill our need for attention.
Something mentioned in class related to this was the Turing Test, and how if we can’t tell the difference between a person and a computer’s interaction, we have passed a certain point in humanity or perhaps crossed a line. I don’t think we will ever get to this point, I think we can be tricked to a certain degree but after a while, a computer will always be identified as a computer. I don’t think a computer will ever be able to indefinitely pass a Turing Test, and even if that day does ever come into existence, I still stand by my statement that computers will never be able to fully fulfill human’s need for attention and interaction.
A common theme we discussed throughout this course was how technologies related to communication and information sharing get used and reinvented. I think a huge drive for technological innovations and improvement stems from the fact that humans desire that connection with each other. We keep creating extensions of communication in order to satisfy that need.
I made the argument in class that online communication is just an extension of face-to-face communication. Online communication isn’t good, bad, or better, but merely just another avenue to continue communication. I know people are worried, as they always have been, that the digital world is ruining our ability to interact with each other, or ruining some aspect of “the good old days,” but I don’t think this worry is justified. I know that with the younger generation, the true digital natives and “iGen” demographic, just because they have technology integrated into far more of their life than generations before, doesn’t necessarily mean they are so different from previous generation. Although they are born with the means to interact and communicate online, I think the younger generation values in-person communication just as much as generations before. I think the most we have to worry about is that the younger generation may supplement face-to-face communication with digital communication too often. They might experience more feelings of isolation and loneliness without that healthy balance, which again I think supports my declaration that computers could never fully fulfill the need for human interaction and attention.
Something we briefly discussed in class was the concept of planned obsolescence, and if there was actually a solution to it. I believe there is a solution to planned obsolescence, and I think the best way to go about ending technology waste from planned obsolescence is by holding businesses accountable that produce technology with an expiration date. In the future, I think businesses will need to do trade-ins where they have to take back their old/outdated technology. Older technology needs to be repurposed and new technology must be designed to either take on a second life or be built with the goal for it to be recycled. Technology waste is becoming such a huge issue, and planned obsolescence is only making the situation worse. Most of us do not even notice this issue with technology waste, because our trash doesn’t end up here. More often than not, technology waste ends up in another country and becomes their problem. We don’t consider what happens when we trade in our old phone for the latest and greatest piece of technology, and we never think about where that new technology comes from and the impact it has on our world. This seems to be an endless cycle of consumption and waste, and the first step to ending this would be to force these businesses producing technology to be responsible.
On the last day of class, we ended our discussion with predictions for the future. When I first thought about it, I immediately wanted to share some futuristic Jetson-inspired predictions, but then I tried to think a little more realistically about the direction technology is moving in. So, I shared my prediction that, in the very near future, we will not have the need for remotes. I think that remotes will no longer be included in future technologies, because so much of our current technology already has the capability for voice control and motion activation. Not to mention, our phones now have apps and software that allows our smartphones to become a remote for all different types of technology and devices. You can use your phone to start your car, change the channel on your tv, turn off the lights in your kitchen, etc. The smartphone has replaced remotes. From my perspective, remotes are now obsolete and unnecessary. They also contribute to technology waste, so I think the sooner they go, the better.
Overall, I learned so much from this course and found it invaluable. I enjoyed collaborating with my table and listening to my classmates share their perspectives during classroom discussions. It was a really great semester, and I am glad I was able to be a part of this class.