There was a time when nature was inhospitable, a source of threats and dangers. Something similar happens to us today with the hyper-technological world that grows before our eyes.
The efforts of human being to domesticate nature have increased the complexity of technologies so much that, paradoxically, they have become increasingly alien to us.
Thanks to the emergence of information and communication technologies (ICT), we now have increasingly powerful, cheap and easy-to-use mobile phones. But also more inaccessible.
Computer applications are so complex that the user often does not know how they really work, or what happens inside. And the more opaque they are for the user, the easier they are to handle.
Digital technologies are there: in front of us, as we read this article. And not only transforming societies but increasingly conditioning our way of being a person.
Table of Contents
Why we are techno people
Natural persons inhabit the city, develop their lives day after day and, most of them, are also legal persons. However, following the mathematician and philosopher of technology Javier Echeverría, with the expansion of ICT has emerged a new modality of the human being: technopersone, which should not be confused with the first.
Technopersons are not made of meat and bone, nor are they constituted by identity documents or other legal objects. They are composed of digital information.
If knowing yourself was already a major challenge, now we have to add the complexity of knowing our technopersone. Unlike organic memory , the huge amount of information in digital memory is distributed across multiple data centers across the planet.
A person may be a free citizen, but as a technoperson his rights may be subject to each time he clicks on “I accept” in any of the contracts managed by the Air Lords: Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and many other entities that have led to the world to a kind of new feudalism.
How does technological alienation occur?
No one asked that ICTs appear and evolve in this way or another and yet, now it seems that we cannot live without them.
It also seems, even, that these technologies evolve autonomously, in a constant search for power by hammering.
Given this idea, known as technological determinism, one can be optimistic and think that technology will inevitably improve human life. Even believe in transhumanism or any other form of technological utopianism.
However, technological development has never been a path of roses. The dynamics of data extraction and exploitation, for example, invade our intimacy without hardly being aware of it. This inability to exercise control over technological development expands by configuring our habits and beliefs, the way we see life. It is the alienating character that predominates in most of the current technical systems, something that the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset already warned in his Meditation of the technique.
In this sense, some philosophers such as Miguel Angel Quintanilla and Martín Parselis promote the development of endearing technologies as opposed to alienating technologies that, among other things, do not allow users to access the bowels of their respective technopersons.
The endearing technologies would be technologies that we could not only adopt and understand in our daily lives but also appropriate them, control them – instead of being controlled – and even take part in their design.
If we want to protect and manage our digital identity, the development of the platforms we use should try to comply with the ten principles that these authors have proposed.
Decalogue of endearing technologies
- Open: they lack access restrictions for their use, copying, modification and distribution imposed by criteria external to the technology itself.
- Multi-purpose: capable of integrating different objectives into a single technical system, or facilitating alternative uses by its operators or users.
- Docile: the operation, control and shutdown of the system depend effectively on a human operator.
- Limited: technologies must have predictable consequences. If not, the precautionary principle should be applied.
- Reversible: it must be possible to restore the natural or social environment in which a technical system is implemented and redesign from the start of other alternative operations if necessary. We cannot unleash technological projects that change the world irreversibly and run the risk of destroying it.
- Recoverable: technologies must be susceptible to active maintenance and waste recovery. Scheduled obsolescence should be prohibited and the recovery, maintenance, repair, management and recycling of waste operations must be incorporated into the design and commercialization of technical systems.
- Understandable: “black boxes” that produce ignorance should be avoided. The design of a technical system and its operations manual should facilitate the understanding of its operation, and the identification of its components.
- Participatory: they must facilitate human cooperation and be socially inclusive. For this, appropriate institutional arrangements have to be organized to facilitate citizen participation not only in the process of acceptance or rejection of a predefined technological offer but also in the debate around the different technological options available.
- Sustainable: they must allow savings, recycling of energy and resources. The current development of technology should not limit the possibilities of future development.
- Socially responsible: the implementation of new technology does not contribute to worsening the situation of the most disadvantaged groups. It must favor the equal distribution of the resources it generates and, in any case, its consequences should not worsen the situation of the most disadvantaged groups.
These ten criteria serve to evaluate technologies socially. An example of reference is open source programs. In addition to being useful, efficient and profitable, their developments are based on the collaboration and participation of users.
Therefore, we can comply with a technological development that generates alienated technopersons or, on the contrary, exercise the responsibility of developing technologies that promote, in short, endearing technopersons .