The growth of techno-dependency

Humans have been creating technology and inter-twinning their existence with it since… hmm, you guess. The construction of tools is something we are good at. In fact, so good that Andy Clark (2003) argues that this close coupling makes us “natural-born cyborgs”. However, it also seems that current trends regarding our living with technologies deepens dependencies, or, at least, establishes more complex relationships and susceptibility to disruptions. Just think what would happen to the world economy right now if the web stops functioning for… a day… a week… a month? The authors of the “Being Human” report also point out another important issue: some sorts of technologies also develop particular relationships between themselves, so the chains of dependency become even more complex (just consider the increasing autonomy of robotic technologies and software agents…

Reflecting on this framing makes us consider the need to understand, evaluate and decide over a range of issues. Questions concerning people’s skills and knowledge that are affect by the utilization of the technologies are important. The discussion regarding workers de-skilling by the introduction of new artifacts is not new. However, the ever increasing insertion of digital/computational artifacts in schools for the learning highlights the dangers over the acquisition of competences: we need to understand how to design technologies that foster comprehension and not just skilful but shallow manipulation of information.

Another important issue concerns the development of trust: not only trust on the technologies themselves but also how new stuff changes the way people develop trust in different contexts (virtual, real world, transitions between the two…).

Reflecting on the digital divide, the authors of the referred to report consider the need for designers to address this particular problem and efficiently propose solutions for inclusion and fairness.

Finally, all these issues make me quite aware of the problem of understanding how people, groups, societies, can consider accountability regarding creation and use… does it make sense to think of a charter of principles? Well, not really new questions but it seems that there is an increasing pressure to act decisevely…

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