Weapons of mass destruction

Jenna Culpepper, Head Editor

“Artificial intelligence is going to take over the world one day. Just wait until all our jobs are gone and we’re left in their dust.”

I’ve heard that sentiment expressed for as long as I can remember, but I think––much to our world’s potential dismay––this reckoning with technology has already arrived. AI is very much running the world we live in.

Look around and think about it. Especially in our community, everyone has a phone and a computer and maybe even a smart watch. Technology might as well have a direct plug into our brains because our culture is so irreversibly dependent on it.

Our phones know us better than we know ourselves. Technology knows our biases and secrets, it contains our search histories and our habits. We can’t undo that with the click of a button.

Any time you open a Wikipedia page, that Wikipedia page is universally the same: the content is identical. But when I google something or open my instagram, no one else sees exactly what I’m seeing. Technology bends itself to the user.

Every last second we spend staring at a photo on our instagram feeds or watching a video on YouTube, technology remembers and it uses it against us. When we have bad days, our social media feeds know exactly how to keep us scrolling on past what we want. Social media has mastered the art of bending time.

The world is just beginning to see the impact on people growing up with technology and social media. It is clear that technology has many people addicted and has also severely damaged people’s mental health.

The Center for Disease Control has reported that the suicide rate increased 35 percent  from 1998 to 2018. There is a notable correlation between increased technology use and rising suicide rates over the past two decades.

It has damaged many people’s mental health including my own, left millions addicted, and established a permanent position of value in society. There is no going back on a lot of that. If that doesn’t scare you, I think it should.

I don’t think some radical call to throw away your phones and get off the grid is an answer. I think it’s more important that people are aware that their phones are working to keep them plugged in at all times. Through notifications and algorithm picked content, consumers are fighting a battle––a largely losing one at that––against hundreds of engineers and an increasingly intelligent algorithm.

Technology isn’t inherently bad––in fact, it’s brought a lot of great things––but I do think there are a lot of terrible people in the world. People with innocent intentions created technology that others are now using to cause significant harm.

Try not to forget about the weapon burning a hole in your pocket. It can be used against you at any moment so I urge you to use it wisely.