Thursday, February 2, 2017

Outside the Box: I hate digital technology

By Anonymous

[Editor’s Note: This article would have been an item of correspondence (anonymous, as is the custom in a “Correspondence” column) if it had stopped with the first email we received, but it kept growing...into a longer piece (but still anonymous) just right for “Outside the Box.”]

I hate digital technology. I work with so much of it in my job and for my clients, I am so immersed in it, I never have the opportunity to say what I really feel. I’ll take this opportunity now to do so. Yes, I hate digital technology, and you can’t talk me out of it. We really don’t need one lousy bit of it, not even the healthcare. I would rather die earlier but live better.
    And digital technology is killing the planet. Do you have any idea how many tons of raw material and fresh water go into the manufacture of one despicable cell phone? And for every so-called benefit from technology, I suffer a dozen associated curses.
    Ten years ago I read that the typical laptop requires twenty tons of raw unprocessed materials to manufacture, not including fresh water. The amount of materials is not directly related to the size of the computer: the typical desk model at the time actually required less tonnage. I wouldn’t be surprised if the greater sophistication of a typical smartphone used a similar amount of raw material, but I can’t find that data. On average, each smartphone contains 62 different types of metals in addition to many rare earths: gold, silver, copper, aluminum, tungsten, tin, praseodymium, boron, lithium, graphite, cobalt, dysprosium, iron, tantalum, etc. The mining and refining of these resources is often environmentally damaging, hazardous to the miners, and extremely fresh-water intensive. As for construction, the iPhone-5S (ancient history) had a carbon footprint of 70 kg, 81% of that emitted during production.
    With consumers often purchasing new phones every year, the construction carbon footprint may outweigh in importance the life of the product. The manufacture of the iPhone-5 camera’s “sapphire glass&rdquo ; lens was particularly energy-intensive. And don’t forget the energy these devices require. Smartphone charging generated 6.4 megatons of greenhouse gases in 2014, estimated to increase to 13 megatons in 2019 (equal to the annual emissions of 1.1 million cars).
    But of course we’ve all been forced into a world where owning one of these is a prerequisite for employment in almost every industry. And we call ourselves free?
    Deep at heart, most people hate the changes that occur in their lifetime. I would give my right arm to be living in the ’60s again, with no computers smaller than a barn, no cell phones, no MRIs (just to be fair) and no reality TV. I could put up with all the indoor smoking and assassinations, and LGBT people would have to live secretively of course. But really, I liked it better then. I prefer a bound encyclopedia to Wikipedia any day.
    I actually enjoy taking longer to do some things. Why are we in such a god-damned rush all the time? I think we will be the laughingstocks of future generations, the way everyone walks around staring at their stupid-phones.

And of course, at this point the name-calling and condescension begin: luddite, etc. I don’t care. I have simply had it with everyone’s love affair with technology. The worst of it is: it’s boring! Save your breath.
    Technology is the safest thing one can love these days, because everyone equates technology with progress. In fact the opposite is true. If you equate individual freedom with progress, for instance, the cell phone has reduced my individual freedom about 75%. I no longer have times when I’m “not at work.” The cell phone has chained me to my job. Thank you, Steve Jobs. May you rot in hell!

I don’t want to just rail at technology. I want us as a collective society (and yes I very much think this is possible for a species that produced Einstein) to apply rational and insightful criteria to our technological development. If the only thing that drives invention is profit, then we are truly doomed as a planet. Innovation is seldom driven by the need of the people. I’ve heard it said that back in 1900 what people wanted was a faster horse. In the same way (Dick Tracy readers aside) no one wanted or expected the smartphone. We have been carefully trained (brainwashed) through advertisement and the cults of “innovation” and novelty to want it very much, but should that really be the impetus for development?
    We have the ability to plan for future scenarios (with some accuracy). The impacts of the automobile or the cell phone could have been predicted. Of course we bridle at the very idea of regulation, especially the regulation of ideas, but without some species-wide consensus, we are blindly dashing into the abyss. Go ahead and tell me that’s impossible. A hundred years ago we would have said the same thing about the smartphone.

    The credo that will kill us all in a very short time is that bogey of unproven hypotheses: you can’t stop progress. We think we can do anything but go backwards. A little reading in the history of Western Europe in the fifth to ninth centuries, or of China following the Han or Tang Dynasties, will show that, if you truly believe progress is unstoppable, the reverse gear may kick in whether you like it or not.
    And it may not be about stopping Trump. It could be that he’s the reverse gear stopping the rest of us because we didn’t look where we were driving. And he’s using our beloved technology against us: never in the history of the world has it been so effortless to successfully lie to so many.

Copyright © 2017 by Moristotle


  1. Technology is like an unstoppable, invasive, no cure desease! We can be tracked no matter where we travel. Our lives, finances, every thing we buy, someone knows and is storing our lives in the digital world.

  2. Bravo for taking this time. Two quotes from the book "Digital Destiny", by Shawn Dubravac Ph.D - "Data has been a long attempt to recreate the brains data processing power. The goal of computing can be simplified as an attempt to mimic elements of the human mind." I ask, is it therefore something good for the individual? Can we remain individual?