A Dane Abroad: The potential pitfalls of an unregulated tech race

In a recent New York Times article, tech writer Kevin Roose reported a bizarre encounter he’d had with a Bing chatbot in which it had told him, among other things, that it dreamt of being human, that Roose ought to divorce his wife, and that it wanted to steal atomic bomb codes.

Don’t let it be on our watch
Other industries are regulated for the safety of humankind, so why does tech seem like a wild horse carriage ride with the driver nowhere in sight? 

It is widely acknowledged that humankind has experienced more technological advancements in the last 20 years than throughout the entire lifespan of the human race combined, so might it not be prudent to be watchful about so-called ‘technological advancements’? 

Surely it’s time to consider whether new discoveries and inventions are actually a beneficial advancement and not just an advancement for the sake of advancement?

A recent DR article informs us that a record high number of youngsters in Denmark are being medicated for depression and ADHD. What are the reasons for all these diagnoses? 

I find it thought-provoking that ADHD is classified as an attention deficit disorder, and that the use of mobile phone technology, namely social media, has ‘coincidentally’ been found to significantly disrupt concentration – and cause depression among youngsters and adults alike.

The use of technology, and in particular social media, has for a long time been strongly linked to poor mental health, yet we continue to blindly buy into it, unhinged and seemingly unbothered.

The right kind of activity 
The increased use of digital technology has been shown to result in 1/ spending less time outdoors and 2/ being less active – time outdoors and being active being two of the most effective antidepressant remedies. 

As a physiotherapist I find this extremely troubling. Being physically active is a determinant of health. Full stop. There cannot be health without physical activity – we cannot tech our way out of it. 

The behaviour-regulating effects of technology are becoming a well-known fact, yet despite these discoveries people are carrying on as usual. Kids are on social media more than ever before, and mental health diagnoses are rampant. 

There is talk of improving mental healthcare, yet nothing about addressing the actual causes of such a disastrous development. As per usual, our modern way of thinking squashes symptoms, not causes. 

As dead as God …
There is an air of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ about this topic. Everyone knows there is something eerie about it, but no-one is sounding the alarm. In a British documentary about Friedrich Nietzsche (‘Genius of the Modern World’), Bethany Hughes paraphrases Nietzsche’s chillingly accurate predictions for ‘Modern Man’, which he referred to as ‘The Last Men’. 

Hughes recounts Nietzsche’s contemptuous description of a future people who no longer care about challenging ideas and concepts, but instead live trivial and narcissistic existences, blindly buying into “the religion of comfortableness”, living lives of “timid mediocrity kidding themselves they are happy”. 

Has the present world been foreseen by a philosopher living in the 1880s (interestingly during a technological upswing), who saw it coming that Modern Man will happily go down sipping on lattes, turning blind eyes and uploading stories to Instagram, while not having the faintest clue what hit him?

It might be time to relaunch and prioritise moral and philosophical conversations about life and technology that have the well-being of mankind as a primary goal, and not simply the blind quest for any and every ‘technological advancement’ at the cost, perhaps, of the greater good of humankind.