There are at least two types of techno-phobes. There are those who believe technology has ruined mankind and will continue to do so. You hear the term “Luddites” applied to them which bears some historical reference, I think, to a group that opposed mechnanization in the 19th century. Their fear of technology arises from all the negative impacts technology has had upon us from environmental damage, squandered natural resources, reduced employment opportunities, reduced human responsibility, and so on all the way to having contributed to our physical degradation and even obesity. These folks must see the benefits some technology has provided our species but they argue the tradeoffs for those benefits are much too costly. Depending on who is making the argument, and how well, the position is often difficult to defeat.
The other type of techno-phobe is more subtle and difficult to describe because they are somewhat less phobic, and more disappointed. These not only recognize the benefits of technology, but are frequently some of the greatest technology advocates. Their disinclination to become carried away by technology comes from their recognition of technology’s failure to fulfill its promise to rectify all ills and its inability to deliver on that offer.
Just like a snowball rolling down a hill, technology’s advancement goes faster and faster as it becomes a larger and larger part of our lives. And in that advancement, many potential benefits easily envisioned are ill refined as that snowball rolls on, sometimes (often?) leaving nascent advances behind before they can be fully developed.
What was cutting edge last week, purchased and implemented by hopefuls, becomes yesterday’s disappointment because it is often neither developed nor replaced, but merely remains static, and today something “better” is proposed. The promise of advancement is half realized, its utility half gained, and we are left holding a very expensive obsolete cell phone, screaming at a Voice Recognition System that only partially recognizes our voices, escaping an electric vehicle that burns on the roadside, marveling at a Customer Service Replacement Program that fails miserably to provide customers with service as it replaces a human being that could.
That second type of techno-phobe can easily appreciate what could be, understands how close all the near misses have come, and bathes in the frustration of what might have been. It is not a fear of burgeoning technology in itself, but the knowledge that as we become more and more dependent upon technology that complicates our lives without benefiting them to the same degree, as these systems we barely understand become intertwined, we risk a future based upon and subject to changes we seem less and less able to control. This second type of techno-phobe resists technology not out of fear of how badly it can affect our basic humanity, but out of fear of how good it promises us it can be for us.
You have heard of Artificial Intelligence, haven’t you?