The Implications of Invisible Technologies

For millenia, almost every tool humans have used have been visible to us. Stone arrowheads and knives through to smartphones, PC’s and so on. It’s been fairly easy to define and understand them and in many cases, use them for a multitude of different purposes. Except a hammer, which we just see nails everywhere…
Slowly, we have begun to see some technologies become less visible; the infrastructure of the internet for example. Energy isn’t visible, but the technology that delivers electricity or makes a car engine work, is visible. Hydro towers, vehicle engines.
The tools that we use within much of today’s digital technologies has been relatively easy to do as well. Yes, it was hard to create software and thus email, social media and apps. But they were fairly obvious tools to develop in the first place. They are highly visual in nature and hence much work has been done in the areas of UX (User Experience) and UI (User Interface.) Essentially, the easy stuff is done. Just try and build a competitor to Facebook or Twitter and scale to their size. That’s hard.
Now, with emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, Internet-of-Things (IoT), nanotech and biotech (gene editing etc.), we are entering a phase where many of the tools we use will be driven by invisible technologies. We can’t see blockchain or touch it outside of coding on a computer. So it is with AI. But we can feel it and notice it. Although many times, we may not even notice it as things just “happen” around us.
Humans are wired to see the tools we are using. Our 5 sense play a critical role in how we engage in the world around us. Our brains are processing centres. Our minds are what created things like ethics, the concept of free will and human agency, rule of law, democracy and other political and social systems and norms.
So in some senses, we are used to invisible things, just not really our tools. And technology are tools. We are inherently tool makers to survive. It is why we have already begun to leave the planet. No child born today will ever know a time we didn’t live in space.
These invisible technologies that will underpin our modern society will pose new questions around free will, human agency and societal development. As Dr. Yuval Harari has stated so brilliantly, we are entering the age of the gods and the new religion is humanism. It is these invisible tools that will make that possible. Thus it will bring conflicts, existential angst and an interesting set of new challenges for tech companies who never before had to consider more philosophical matters. Perhaps if the creator of email had been of such mind, we’d not be dealing with spam and overloaded inboxes.
What are your thoughts?

One thought on “The Implications of Invisible Technologies

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