Are we too smart for our own good?

Submitted by martha on March 7, 2013 – 9:00am

The more I read of Evgeny Morozov the more I want to talk to him. I encourage anyone paying attention to do the same. His latest is here. And an excerpt:

From smart cars to smart glasses, “smart” is Silicon Valley’s shorthand for transforming present-day social reality and the hapless souls who inhabit it. But there is reason to worry about this approaching revolution. As smart technologies become more intrusive, they risk undermining our autonomy by suppressing behaviors that someone somewhere has deemed undesirable. Smart forks inform us that we are eating too fast. Smart toothbrushes urge us to spend more time brushing our teeth. Smart sensors in our cars can tell if we drive too fast or brake too suddenly. These devices can give us useful feedback, but they can also share everything they know about our habits with institutions whose interests are not identical with our own. Insurance companies already offer significant discounts to drivers who agree to install smart sensors in order to monitor their driving habits. How long will it be before customers can’t get auto insurance without surrendering to such surveillance? And how long will it be before the self-tracking of our health (weight, diet, steps taken in a day) graduates from being a recreational novelty to a virtual requirement?

What does it matter? To me, it matters in part because the people creating much of this technology are not necessarily reflective of the population. Nor it seems are ethics and social values, norms in short, guiding their work. Wikileaks taught us a little about transparancy and accountability and its lack. Why does the Privacy Commissioner have to investigate Facebook every other month? Why are my tax dollars doing the work that a for profit company ought to have done before it started and continues to do. So, when an artists asks me yet again about facebook and sharing and all the rest I have to ask who is challenging the new hegemony? And how?

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