Scans human thought and feelings of the brain and replaces it with binary code.

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March 2023

Toxic Technology

Undeniably, the ubiquitous global internet combined with mobile personal communication devices has enriched the lives of billions, but — and at the same time — it has impoverished people and public life in many subtle ways. For example, ride-sharing technology has made personal transportation more convenient for those that can afford it, but it has also devastated the lives, families, and finances of taxi drivers (while massively enriching, financially, a very few). Putting a mega-casino in everyone’s pocket has made a form of entertainment (i.e., gambling) readily accessible to billions, but it has also devastated the lives, families, and finances of gambling addicts (while massively enriching, financially, a very few).

Moreover, having potentially unrestricted access to knowledge and expertise and being potentially able to reach audiences of unparalleled size has greatly empowered the ordinary citizen. However, advances in neuroscience, data science, individual identification, and design for capturing attention have reduced many to little more than predictable (and so more easily manipulated) finite-state machines. Consequently, people can become helpless units in an aggregated revenue stream, producing a reversion to a societal organization based on feudal arrangements. And it remains a source of concern to progressive leadership that the world’s most technologically advanced nation should also be the most credulous with respect to, for example, mask-wearing and vaccination during a global pandemic. Although this can be partially attributed to opportunistic cynicism in advancing an extreme political agenda, what sort of signals are being sent here?

The question underlying these radical opposites and contrasting extremes is this: clearly “we”—“we” meaning both as individuals and as a society—have developed a deep and special relationship with our devices, and in many dimensions, this relationship has been undeniably beneficial. But now, could this relationship, in the parlance of psychotherapy and counseling, be categorized as toxic ?

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