It’s Halloween, that time of year when we get spooked by witches, zombies, ghosts, vampires… Mark Zuckerberg? Amazon? No seriously, many people fear technology and have concerns about what technology companies are doing with our information.
Ever since Charlie Brooker made us all feel slightly uneasy about the modern world with his Black Mirror series, people are having more conversations and getting more concerned about where technology will eventually take us. Whilst it’s true that technology has accelerated very quickly in a short space of time, and people are constantly inundated with new ‘stuff’, we’re not quite living in a Brookeresque nightmare yet – although Uber may have started to get the ball rolling…
On that note, let’s look at some of the other ways that technology likes to scare us into thinking that we’re part of a real-life Black Mirror episode and break them down:
Our devices are listening to us
We’ve all thought about this at least once. You’ll be sitting in the pub with your friends, casually decide to order a Hop House lager, quickly check your Instagram feed and there it is. A Hop House advert directly there on your newsfeed. Suspicious, right?
In a way, it can be pretty frightening when something you were just talking about suddenly appears on every internet channel and social newsfeed, making us really believe that our phones are most certainly listening to our conversations. The good news is, as we know already, the illusion comes down to cleverly timed, targeted ads, which sound much less scary.
But targeted marketing can be a difficult technique to pull off, given that consumers already think that advertising is more intrusive than ever before. And with legislation like the GDPR in play, consumers are much more aware of how companies use their data, making them question why companies are targeting them even more. Targeted advertising also comes down to knowing which channels the audience is interacting with, and that too is rapidly changing – it was revealed recently that Facebook has slumped in popularity with the UK’s under 30s, for example.
Phones are turning us into zombies
The introduction of smartphones and 4G has meant that we can access the internet wherever and whenever we want, making the smartphone one of our most valued possessions, so much so that some people are willing to give up their own limbs than give up their smartphone. Smartphones get a bad rep because it makes people seem ignorant (how many times have you looked around on your commute and seen everyone staring at their phone?) but when you think about all the ways your smartphone has helped you out – even just in that last 24 hours – really, they aren’t so bad.
Three recently shed some light on this topic with their #PhonesAreGood campaign, which tells a light-hearted story about what history might have looked like if there were smartphones around in the past, and it does make you think that we’re lucky to have them.
People think that smartphones are the demon because of how much time we spend on them, and it’s true that it has caused major problems in society. But smartphones don’t turn on by themselves and smartphone usage should be all about balance and learning to put down your phone from time to time. Apple recently introduced its ‘digital wellbeing’ tools, one of which shows users how long they are spending on each app. The app doesn’t directly interrupt people’s screen time but rather makes people aware that they perhaps need to part with their phone for a while.
The robot takeover
Lots of people fear AI and robots and worry that they’ll suddenly waltz in one day and take over everyone’s jobs. But it’s not something that we should be as fearful of just yet. Whilst it’s true that technology is outsmarting us in some ways, most of us don’t realise that we’re already dealing with a number of robots, and society has just adjusted to it. For example, self-service checkouts and smart home assistants have all been introduced to us within the past 10 years, and we’re already used to, if not prefer to, have them around.
The line between cool and creepy
People fear about technology and the future because of what they hear through the internet, friends, books and podcasts. And it’s natural to have these kinds of fears when technology is still a ‘new’ thing to us. In reality, we’re all still trying to get our heads around some kind of technology, whether that’s Fortnite, Blockchain or autonomous cars and once we think we’ve figured it all out, something else comes along. That’s why education is important. GDPR wasn’t just a new legislation brought in by the government, it was an opportunity to educate people on the importance of their personal data and how it gets used. And it’s the same with technology. We need to constantly keep up with technology trends and broaden our knowledge of what’s around us in order to appreciate the benefits.
No one can figure out exactly what the future will bring, and everyone will always fear the worst. But having technology around us should be something that we cherish and not be afraid of, no matter whether we sometimes get creeped out by it.