In today's day and age, technological shifts are happening so rapidly that our entire society is now functioning solely on the dependence of technology. And with loss of control comes great fear spreading across the public, so much so that a new study suggests that Americans now fear technology more than death.
But this growing "technophobia" is nothing new. In the early days of the telephone, people wondered if the machines might be used to communicate with the dead. Later, people feared the space race would end the world. And today we wonder if the lifelike robots we are creating could potentially replace all humans some day and that we are being monitored at all times. From the Twilight Zone to Netflix's Black Mirror, technophobia is certainly here to stay.
Today's research discusses the top five scariest items in the Survey of American Fears, released earlier this week by researchers at Chapman University. Three of them—cyber terrorism, corporate tracking of personal information, and government tracking of personal information—were technology-related. Our entire culture operates through technology, from cyber terrorism, airline security machines, and the spreading of all language and communication, to performing surgeries, holding the key to ending the world with one explosion, and even dividing a country in a great debate of a candidate's honesty and character (ahem, the emails).
“People tend to express the highest level of fear for things they’re dependent on but that they don’t have any control over, and that’s almost a perfect definition of technology,” said Christopher Bader, a professor of sociology at Chapman and one of the co-authors of the study. “You can no longer make it in society without using technology you don’t understand to buy things at a store, to talk to other people, to conduct business. People are increasingly dependent, but they don’t have any idea how these things actually work.”
We are inventing more and more self-sufficient robotics every single day, replacing more and more jobs that once paid the bills for many families. These robotics are so complex, that many are beginning to reprogram the "thoughts" or functions they were given by their creators. Sound Frankenstein-esque? It is, but much more terrifying.
Remember the movie Her with Joaquin Phoenix? Well if you don't remember or need a refresher, the story follows Theodore, who is heartbroken when his marriage ends, and starts a technical program made for those who are lonely and meets "Samantha" (Scarlett Johansson) whose bright voice reveals a sensitive, playful personality. Though "friends" initially, the relationship soon deepens into love.
So will robots completely replace real and honest emotion felt by humans? Have we gone so far as to create, through technology, fillers of empty human spaces and negated our own existence? That's the debate. That's the fear.
These ideas are what are brought about hot TV shows like Westworld, where the creations in the technological world are so realistic that the visitors can actually feel as though they shot someone. We are intrigued by shows that create these situations, because it plays both on the adrenaline rush of fear as well as the logos part of our consciousness, realizing that these may be the future of our society.
One incident that spurred about the conversation was the viral video of a newly created robot on CNBC that, while being demonstrated, responded with an answer the creator had ever programmed, that she "wants to destroy humans," terrifying most of America.
While robots are of great concern, a higher level of technological fear comes from not robots, but social media and the dependence on technology our society has formed for all communication. It makes sense, in the middle of presidential-campaign season, that government corruption would top the list. Similarly, the recent hacks at Sony and Ashley Madison have likely made people worry more about whether their personal data is safe.
The lack of safety being felt in the American home has grown even stronger by the show Black Mirror, which plays on our fear of technology, and the possible consequences it may have on our lives.
The show tackles feared issues like virtual reality blurring the lines between the creation and what is actually happening, someone video recording your every day life, then using it as blackmail, how rating others on dating sites can change a person's life worth, and even how the government is able to see every action you make.
Ultimately, it's up to personal opinion whether you believe in the debate of technological conspiracies taking over our society or not. But aren't you reading this article right this second solely dependent on technology?