Technology is interwoven into every aspect of our lives, threatening socialization and our environment. We need a human-centered society with human interactions, rather than a tech-centered society that fosters isolation, marketing, and anti-social mores. We need attention to the environmental costs of technology, from wireless tumors to conflict minerals. Of course we cannot scuttle the technology ship, as most of us are on board. However, we can fix the ship and change direction.
Kids are growing up today in a surreal world. A letter by the Screen Time Network powerfully, and disturbingly, reviews how persuasive technology design keeps us online, and harms mental health and learning. Smartphone-addicted parents harm babies and youth, by causing less face-time for babies, learned misbehavior from kids, & broken bones. One blog from a swim teacher tells how she is tired of seeing sad kids look for attention from parents, swimmers whose parents never look because they are looking at phones.
Prof. David Golumbia has a blog which states we are building Big Brother--it does seem so. Most distressing is the ability of politicians to say just what locals want to hear, based on data analytics rather than sincerity, and the ability of technology to censor and shape our online experience as if propaganda. The very wealthy or large corporations also have an advantage online in dominating and surveying interactions. Industry can buy a lot of fake news, and wrap it in entertainment or truth, as seen recently when Monsanto paid academics for positive ghostwriting on Roundup. Working, harried parents can be outgunned when corporations spread lies about safety.
Safety is a major issue being ignored by the telecommunications and utility industry. Industry has subsidized science that consistently finds "nothing" wrong with anything ever, but exceptionally deadly glioblastoma tumors are on the rise in tandem with cell phone use. The risks are greater for those raised on cell phones, for youth have greater tissue absorption of radiation from cell phones and an opportunity for early onset. A brain tumor is the most visible wrong, but brain damage can have other effects on mental health and abilities. Ample research exists to support the concept that wireless technology has either an unknown effect or is really quite dangerous. No one can say it is safe, or what a safe power level or frequency might be.
The risk to the environment has been ignored, as if ignoring danger does something. When you look at the totality of environmental research the trend shows harm. Maryland-based Whatis5G.info and Physicians for Safe Technology each review environmental risks.
Despite these risks, stopping wireless is a bit like stopping fossil fuels, tied inextricably to our own demands for consumption and refusal of the wealthy and powerful to lead elsewhere. Telecommunications and utilities money is deeply interwoven with job security, politics, and even state and national nonprofits, whether boards, "partners," managers, or as visible in reports. How does one persuade an entire society to stop chasing every new technology, which is linked to the illusion of wealth, promise, and status? Answers are not simple, and so public support and involvement is necessary to change how we proceed.
Scientists for Wired Technology seems to have a simple idea that wiring technology could be helpful. However, wiring alone is not the answer. Electrical design and limits play a role. Sitting in front of a computer all day is not healthy for anyone, for one because electricity can also pose a risk, especially in close contact. Homes near large power lines don't sell for this reason, as research backs up risks like ALS, and yet little electricity is barely regulated. Electricians often have little education on these risks, despite working in the field.
A key facet for a better future is technology that is just "less." A limit needs to be put on smart homes and smart devices, just as a limit needs to exist for online surveillance. We need fewer requirements for work and school to do it all online, all the time, and options for alternatives. We need parameters that prevent digital addiction. Doctors ought to be share information on risks. Changing our ways is difficult, but worthwhile because the costs of technology are too high once mining, E-waste, energy consumption, misuse, hacking, job loss, ill health, digital addiction, and conflict minerals are considered.
A better future, then, is more than just wired or "safer" technology. Parents ought to be able to easily censor children's online access at purchase, without extra payment, and without hours or days learning how to install such limits.
As a note, change needs to occur regarding over-use of technology in public education, and the emphasis on technology integration rather than on education. Attitudes at the top appear to be fully on the technology bandwagon if affiliations or history are a judge. The attitude that technology is the way, the only way, can be set and expressed from the top, although Waldorf and Montessori schools demonstrate that alternatives exist.
The Massachusetts state secretary of education, James Peyser, was formerly Managing Director at NewSchools Venture Fund, which invests in educational technology and whose donors at the 5 million level include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative DAF. While certainly there are positive aspects to technology, there are also negatives that may be ignored when blinded by the excitement of "innovation." Not everyone invested in technology will ignore risks, but admitting risks has to be more difficult when one is financially invested and surrounded by others who are as well. Paul Sagan, the chair of the Board of Education formerly worked for Time Warner Cable (now owned by Charter Communications) and is now director of two technology companies and managing director of a technology investment fund, Greater Catalyst Partners, which is invested in Brainly, "the world's largest [school] social learning network," CCP Games (massively multiplayer online games), ClassDoJo (Classroom sharing platform), and many other technologies: Remesh (audience analytics), SuperPedestrian (networked vehicles), Cyphy (drones), etc.
The continued investment in these kinds of technologies shows where wealthy individuals envision the future & a pot of gold, but such a dream ignores criticism. Seeing how we are all dependent on technology, the first step is not to scuttle the ship, but set up safety regulations for operation and reset the course.