Taming the Shrew: Regulating Technology for a Better, Safer World

If you watch Black Mirror, you must have come across the episode ‘Nosedive’ where the protagonist’s obsession with her social ratings ultimately leads her ratings to literally nosedive (hence the title). You must have noticed that most episodes on Black Mirror deal with the uglier side of technology that human beings choose to overlook (often deliberately). Black Mirror has dared to ask the difficult questions about technology’s ever accelerating and unchecked growth.

Technology pervades all aspects of life. From going about our everyday work, commuting to and fro places and communicating to getting a gift for someone, technology is everywhere as far as you try to look across everyday human life. With such an increasing presence in human life, technology is already beginning to dominate our lives. The arrival of the internet and social media, digital tech has been the biggest game-changer for humanity in the last few decades. Although the digital revolution empowered us with information and the ability to reach out beyond physical boundaries, it also made us extensively dependent and “addicted” to technologies like the internet, mobile and algorithms. Algorithms now “help us” decide 

  • where to go (tripadvisor) 
  • which cab to hire (uber)
  • whom to date (tinder) / marry (shaadi.com) 
  • what to think (auto-complete on google)
  • and most probably, they can predict how would we feel / react to something

The one thing that has had the most deep and distressing impact on people is social media. Although social media platforms like Facebook have helped us to connect with people across the globe; they have been far more damaging than other aspects of the internet. Websites like Facebook and Instagram have developed an insatiable need in users for scrolling and getting likes from other users. This whole phenomenon of likes / comments didn’t take long to turn into an addiction, as they genuinely cause the dopamine release in human brains. On the surface, it may seem like a harmless bunch of positive reviews but deep down it acts like an addictive substance. Most social media platforms do not put a limit to their feed hence leading to endless scrolling to which people easily become habitual and then addicted. In several ‘worse’ scenarios, many parents let their children enjoy endless scrolling on social media at a very young age which not only affects their young minds but also keeps them away from a healthy active lifestyle. Social media also allows for targeting people for manipulating their actions such as how they might vote. US elections of 2016 were clearly manipulated by the use of Facebook. 

Such effects of social media had been left unchecked as was cigarette distribution in the last century. 

But what happens when an addict does not get the desired substance? From disturbing withdrawal symptoms to depression, social media addicts can end up going through a wide range of negative experiences just because they did not receive the approval on social media as they had desired. Indeed, it is a pitiful situation to think of. A technology created by us for our own use is now making us dance to its tunes. Youngsters have, in fact, created a whole ‘influencer’ lifestyle around social media and are even garnering some fame via it. This desire for fame easily turns into an addiction itself. Not finding it in one’s pursuit of fame on social media can lead to adverse psychological issues. The overuse of technology is only ending up making people feel worse. It’s clearly doing more harm than good for our society these days.

Twitter is another useful social site used for microblogging by everyone. But it has led everyone to believe that they are experts and that nobody don’t needs to have depth beyond 280 characters. The sad yet ridiculous thing is that people don’t even read anything beyond the headlines. Most users are quick to judge and end up spreading hate and toxicity through their comments. Fake news spreading via headlines only is a classic issue. Black mirror has done a good job in showing many such scenarios where a technology that’s useful in the beginning turns into overall hurtful platforms for humanity and the society.

Although digital technology isn’t a complete vice in itself, its unchecked and unregulated growth and spread can do further damages to the society. Technology is a tool and before anything else, it is supposed to help us. If a tool begins to bring more harm than good, we definitely need to rethink about it. We’ve realized already that technology can be just as harmful as it is helpful. Before it’s too late, we must start acting on regulating technology. All tech innovations must be analysed well before being released. The safety of society and ethics should never be compensated for the sake of any kind of technology, no matter how advanced it may be. 

You all must have noticed, how haphazardly grown bushes are deliberately chopped down by arborists (a process called pruning) to maintain aesthetics and convenience. Technological developments must also undergo pruning whenever required so that it wouldn’t harm the very kind that it was made for.

We as individuals, administrators, lawmakers and companies need to control the existing and upcoming techs, with an overall good perspective, so that possible risks can be prevented. Maybe, even the concepts of “free unlimited internet” including scrolls, swipes, posts etc should even be reviewed and debated, and changed if  needed. We must ruminate on any possible crisis that can arise out of misuse and/or abuse of technology. Technology Companies need to act ethically and not just focus on “shareholder returns” but on stakeholders sustainability. We need to lay down advanced guidelines for all tech developers and corporations to keep a healthy check on all existing and upcoming technologies. The regulations for technology must be advanced and flexible enough to accommodate future possibilities as well. Governments should understand that they need to regulate these technologies, by understanding them well, bringing in practitioners from the domain; to not hamper innovation, but only control the side effects of these technologies

Let’s not turn into mindless puppets ourselves. Technology was created for our convenience not to rule over our minds. Let’s remember and act upon that, sooner than later. 

 

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