If you had the ability to travel back in time to the year 1973 and stop Robert E. Khan and Vinton G. Cerf from inventing the internet, would you?
We've come to fear the very technology that we obsess over. We're all addicted to some form of technology in our lives — our phones, our games or our computers. Technology, and obsession with technology, is no longer an aspect for a niche group of people, but rather an all encompassing theme in our lives. Our grandparents carry pocket computers. Future shock is old news.
The ubiquitous nature of futuristic technology has lead to an exponential increase in our distrust of each other and the products we use, but most interesting, has taken away some of the blame from government bodies and corporations. We no longer fear agency bodies as much as we fear the physical technology they use. Every cell phone is a finger of the government, a tool of data collection for monetary gain.
We're not the enemy, technology is
During the Television Critics Association conference in Los Angeles, Syfy hosted a panel for its newest upcoming series, Incorporated. The show focuses on a group of people working for major corporations in the United States and the dystopian world they find themselves in. These corporations provide everything their employees need through the latest technological advancements, ensuring everything is looked after. While it seems like a paradise at first, the employees slowly learn that the technology is being used to spy on them and control their every move, ensuring they’re totally reliant on the company they work for.
"All these impulses that we keep in check because of morality goes out the window"
This is where shows like Mr. Robot and Incorporated, or games like Watch Dogs 2 find their villains. We’ve all become tech savvy and, as we read more about what the technology in our lives is capable of when in the hands of someone with malicious intents, we become more paranoid. We want to talk more about it, watch more, read more and we’re willing to invest hours of our lives into seeing these things play out.
This makes sense, as it sometimes feels like it would be easier to quit our job than it would be to quit our tech. We've become dependent on our devices, cuddling them in bed and fighting off the wave of anxiety that greets us when we realize we left our phones sitting on a desk at home. Our phones have become an extension of us, and as such, we’ve humanized the technology. In humanizing these inanimate objects, we’ve also been able to blame them directly, removing the person behind the keyboard.
"When everything is for sale, sex, violence and all these impulses that we keep in check because of morality goes out the window," Incorporated creator Alex Pastor said.
According to Pastor, the concept of Incorporated was to figure out how we operate within this new technology-ruled world from a moral standpoint. In a world where there are little to no laws governing how we operate, the internet has created a new wild, wild west — and we’re all outlaws. We’re told through shows like Mr. Robot and Incorporated that the people who use the technology, even for terrible reasons, are the heroes. We’re told repeatedly that no matter how terrible the decision is from the people who use the technology, they’re never as bad as the technology itself.
In Watch Dogs 2, we’re told to root for Marcus and his team of hackers, but also to be wary of the drones they use. They’re in complete control of the technology they’re using to take down the Silicon Valley executives that have ruined their city (San Francisco). And still, we never question whether they’re the villain. We have absolved the hackers of any responsibility because it’s not their fault or them we should fear, but the technology. Guns don't kill people; keyloggers do.
Despite us being more savvy of how to use social media or despite us having a better understanding of how computers work in general, most of us still aren’t fluent in how it all fits together. We give so much of ourselves over to our devices, and we don’t ask for much in return.
When we give something that inanimate that much control over us, it's terrifying to think that we're willingly giving up our freedom. Even more scary is despite knowing how much power we're relinquishing to technology, our enthrallment with it won't let us pack it up and store it away. It's easy to fear what you can't walk away from, which makes our phones and laptops the perfect villain for so many stories.