Why We Can’t Understand Technology Today | by Giles Crouch | Digital Anthropologist | Nov, 2022

Photo by Queena Deng from Pixabay

The most obvious thing is that if you’re reading this, you’re using a computer to do it. Mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop. You know how to use the tool, but you may not be using it to its full potential. Few of you can explain or understand all the code, let alone how the firmware and middleware work and what they do. Or how smartphones are a combination of many technologies. I also can’t explain most of the inner workings.

Today’s digital technology is becoming more and more difficult for us to understand. Even the computer scientists who develop AI applications like neural networks and machine learning can’t explain how AI works sometimes. This is unusual for our species.

That’s important as you might think. It will be done. As we increasingly use technology that we don’t understand, it affects our economic and cultural systems and our brains to adapt for the long term. The division of labor becomes greater, affecting our relational systems (family, friends, society) by leading to individualistic society. We are more likely to use technology without fully understanding these effects or fully considering the long-term and unintended consequences.

This is another important way in which intelligent machines, Artificial Intelligence, can influence our social and economic structures in simple and sustainable ways that will lead us to be out of control of ourselves and our our world. The machines. Dystopian. It’s possible, but maybe not in the ways that Hollywood tells us.

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Principles of Technology

Human relations. really Homo sapiens, and technology goes back before the neanderthals to our most distant ancestors. For thousands of years, the stone ax was the primary tool. Around him, cultures grew up with loyalties. The axe, a mediator between early (and some modern) humans and other animals was seen as a tool, a tool yes, but something almost spiritual. Our relationship with the animals we killed for food was so close that we expressed our feelings to them, while we tried to convey their feelings.

We own the methods and technologies we use. I bet you have a case that protects your smartphone? Many people think carefully about the case they are buying, without really knowing it. What signal does it send about my behavior to others? Does it reflect my thoughts on where I stand in my culture? It’s the time we spend sorting out apps and making them work the way we want them to. We do the same with other technologies.

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But before, we were anthropomorphised when talking about the technologies we used, we have changed this idea. Now we use words and phrases for ourselves that impose technical terms on us. For example, we might tell someone about something we don’t understand by saying, “Sorry, that doesn’t count.”

Digital Technologies are Education

We may, or may not, be changing our relationship with technology. Especially digital ones. Everything you can change to zero and one. Although we continue to develop and advance the technologies that shape our physical environment, even those technologies are now intertwined with our minds.

Objectives and methods

People are no longer able to understand the inner workings of most technologies, people are no longer able to understand and appreciate the effects, opportunities, impacts and capabilities of digital technologies. all that we have created is before us. The worst they can do is good.

Sociologists Weber and Durkheim predicted more than a century ago that the rise of technology would lead to the rise of individualism in societies. The problem that has arisen is to look at technology from an individual perspective in Western cultures and societies, but it is necessary to look at them more as a society to find a place and assess the chance. This is one of the reasons why we didn’t want to manage social media with Artificial Intelligence.

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Our approach, I believe, is to stop thinking about ways to solve problems, but to use critical thinking and understanding of complex systems. For a while hard and soft science worked together to develop technology. But that is rarely the case. Simple knowledge affects people. The leaders of the technology world are driven by the centrality of capitalism, not to think that corporations should deliver social benefit first, but profit first.

To truly take advantage of the amazing opportunities and human advancements that digital technologies can offer us, we need to restore, strengthen, encourage and nurture a deep working relationship between hard science and simplicity. Using systems thinking and complexity, rather than the problem-solving approaches of engineers.

People are tied to technology. And technology has been integrated into our cultures since we started using stone tools. This will not change. People cannot live without technology. We knew this on a deep, intuitive level. We have forgotten it.


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