Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Skynet: the conspiracy of technology

'Terminator - My Hero' photo (c) 2006, Niels Provos - license: like a good conspiracy movie, like Enemy of the State, Conspiracy Theory, I, Robot and, The Island.  The last two aren’t conspiracy movies explicitly, but the conspiracy theme definitely runs throughout.  Another movie I think of is The Terminator with Arnold Schwarzenegger and then the entire Terminator franchise.  The storyline running throughout is the threat of the artificial intelligence network called “Skynet.”  Like artificial intelligence in other movies (I, Robot, Eagle Eye) Skynet becomes self-aware and realizes humanity is a mess and must be destroyed.  The entire franchise of the Terminator series is about trying to either stop Skynet from coming online or defeating it after it has. 

Skynet is a fictional plot device in a series of popular movies (and a not-so-popular TV show); or is it? I wonder if Skynet is actually functioning right now in our world today.  Follow me here…
At the advent of the industrial revolution, productivity suddenly became the gold standard.   Still to this day, the buzzwords remain “efficiency,” “productivity,” “output,” and so on; the industrial revolution has led to drastic cultural, societal, and economic changes in our world.  At the heart of industry is production, the two go almost hand in hand.  Humans have continued to innovate and create technology for greater production; first it was an assembly line of humans, then humans were replaced by mechanization, now computers have morphed with machines to become the ultimate worker.  Computers are intelligent, obedient, reliable…  In I, Robot Will Smith’s character complains about robots replacing a man’s job because the robot could do the job better and faster.  It’s sort of the same, except that mechanized computers can also do the job cheaper.
'Satellite Dish' photo (c) 2007, Alexandre Dulaunoy - license:
Where does Skynet come in? Well, in the Terminator series, Skynet became this inevitable entity, this thing that could not be stopped, like a sort of technological destiny.  In the movies, the creators of Skynet had no idea their creation could ever transform into something of such evil, yet once the ball started rolling it couldn’t be stopped...
In our world technology is god; we worship at the altar of technology and progress. From manufacturing to banking (ATMs, smartphone apps, online banking), technology is taking over our society, making the human being expendable and unnecessary.   The struggles of the US postal service is just another tragic reminder; why pay humans to do what a computer can?
Technology can’t be stopped as long as efficiency and profitability rule the day; computers are cheaper and more reliable – there are no sick days and no vacations.  Why would a company trying to make a profit give a job to a human when it can a machine can do it better and cheaper?  Martin Luther King, Jr. noticed the trend roughly 50 years ago, that mechanization was taking jobs from African-American males.    Once lured to the industrial north by the promise of industrial jobs, these humans have been continually replaced by machines and computers.
What’s the big deal you say? Well we’re on a runaway train here, technology is driving us- we’re not driving technology.  Technology is not serving us, we are serving technology.  Our love affair with technology as a culture has evolved in such a way that we are now simply followers (slaves?) of technology, we worship each advancement, discovery, and breakthrough while we continually spend, produce, and exploit (earth, humans…) so that we may have bigger, faster, and stronger.  And the cycle repeats itself…

So for our world today, technology has become our Skynet, and the evils it is capable of have only begun to show themselves
Skynet already exists. The question is whether it’s too late to stop it.

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