Thursday, December 19, 2013

My grandsons - making it in the brave new world - part III

This is the final post in my ramblings on the world my grandsons will face. The first two posts dealt with professional achievement, this final piece touches on the challenge to traditional human friendship and intimacy now presented by the internet, or as Frank Bruni puts it, "The Sweet Caress of Cyberspace." He begins by noting a new movie "Her," in which a man (Joaquin Phoenix)falls in love with the voice (Johansson) generated by the operating system of his smart device that provides not only information, but also motivation, consolation, and intimacy. Bruni:
savored a few themes in particular. One is the Internet’s extreme indulgence of the seemingly innate human impulse to contrive a habitat that’s entirely unthreatening, an ego-stroking ecosystem, a sensibility-controlled comfort zone…You want an endless stream of irony? You can have an endless stream of irony. You want unfettered invective about the politicians you’ve decided to hate? Set your bookmarks and social-media feeds accordingly. You can frolic endlessly in foregone conclusions.
In “Her,” the very nature of Johansson’s operating system is to adapt to and evolve from her interactions with Phoenix. She’s a projection of his needs. She blooms in accordance with his wants (and has an aurally explosive orgasm on cue). He needn’t doubt himself, compromise or color outside the lines…It’s a parable of narcissism in the digital world, which lets you sprint to the foreground of everything, giving you an audience or the illusion of one.
But “Her” also traces the flip side of the coin — that with our amassed knowledge and scientific accomplishments, we may be succeeding in rendering ourselves obsolete. ..Google’s grand designs for robots in manufacturing and shipping… Economists have sounded the alarm about what this could mean for employment and the distribution of wealth. It falls to artists to contemplate what this could mean for psyches and souls, and “Her” imagines a society in which human beings are so thoroughly marginalized that they’re being edited out of courtship and companionship, because they’re superfluous, messy. It’s a love story as horror story. If we no longer need anyone in the passenger seat, do we need anyone at all?
I can't imagine this future dystopian extreme is actually the world my grandchildren will face, but it is good to be aware of such possible dangers ahead so that appropriate defenses can be mounted.

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