Seemingly their observations are neither splenetic nor ill tempered. Their criticisms can be broken down into six areas.
Critics say that technology is a force that is out of control and we will all be left as bored, isolated, helpless, feckless consumers drowning in our own pollution. Artificial Intelligence is ever expanding. Restaurants seem to prefer that I order and pay by n means of a console. I get coupons in the mail for applesauce. This is great except that the supermarket has a data base that tracks my purchases. This how the know that I like peanut butter and applesauce.
The coast of California has essentially one large port that stretches from Long Beach to Los Angeles. Our son is helping to build that port. The cranes that unload the container ships are robotic. The ‘trucks” that move the shipping container are robotic: no drivers necessary. Theoretically the port can operate 24/7 as darkness does not affect the robotics. What will happen to the teamsters?
A second observation is that technology reduces people to work that is repetitive and degrading. Who identifies their career goal as being a migrant farm worker? If you ate any lettuce recently that lettuce was picked by “stoop” labor. United Parcel Service knows exactly how much time each parcel delivery should take and how n many parcels can be delivered in a work shift. In a “fulfillment center” workers for a giant shopping service like Amazon are essentially doing piece work even though they are paid on an hourly basis. The company knows how many orders should be filled per hour. Many brick and mortar stores are vanishing as more and more shopping is done online.
A third opinion is that technology forces us to consume things that we really do not want (need?). The purpose of modern advertising is to create needs. The fashion industry is dedicated to convincing women that the must discard last year’s clothes and buy new things. Is the latest iteration of the smart phone necessary? When it is released people will line up for city blocks to be among the first to purchase it.
A fourth observation is that technology disenfranchises the masses. I used to drive a 1972 Rambler American. I carried a stick pen in my shirt pocket because on cool, damp mornings when the car would not start all I had to do was pop the hood, remove the air filter and insert the pen into the carburetor flap. Then I was good to go and the car would start for the rest of the day. There is no carburetor on my current car. A buddy of mine who is a “shade tree” mechanic making money fixing up friends” cars had to buy himself a small diagnostic computer in order to keep working on the cars.
Another observation is that technology cuts us off from nature. I am a Manhattan, New York City boy. I do not know how to ride a bike. If you want your child to die send them out to ride a bike in Manhattan traffic. There were no ball field in my neighborhood. I played those sports which could be played in the gums and pools of the YMCA. The only bird I saw were starlings, sparrows, sea gulls and pigeons. I would startle my friends in grad school in Indiana by stopping to stare at red-shouldered blackbirds or ordinary red-tailed hawks.
The sixth objection is that technology is producing generation of people who are isolated from one another. At campouts we had to make the boy scouts hand in their cell phones so that they would have to talk to one another when were in their tents. Memberships in social and religious organizations are down. Studies tell us that people are spending four hours a day with their personal electronic devices. On a recent MARTA ride I was the only person who was not looking at a phone screen. Psychologists have discovered a new malady, “nomophobia” which is a fear of being separated from your electronic devices.
Taken together these observations are daunting. However, there is more to the story.