Professor at Columbia Law School and author Tim Wu wrote an article last week for the New Yorker titled "As Technology Gets Better, Will Society Get Worse?"
While the title is likely to induce groans among those already tired with with this topic, Wu does make some fine points that left me pondering our technological evolution.
Biological evolution is driven by survival of the fittest, as adaptive traits are those that make the survival and reproduction of a population more likely. It isn’t perfect, but at least, in a rough way, it favors organisms who are adapted to their environments.
Technological evolution has a different motive force. It is self-evolution, and it is therefore driven by what we want as opposed to what is adaptive.
Plainly put, are we actually in control of this bicycle for our minds or are we simply riding it to wherever we encounter the least resistance? Are we using technology to actively move toward beauty, efficiency, and opportunity? Or are we only coasting toward a less painful future?
Our will-to-comfort, combined with our technological powers, creates a stark possibility. If we’re not careful, our technological evolution will take us toward not a singularity but a sofalarity. That’s a future defined not by an evolution toward superintelligence but by the absence of discomforts.
While we take advantage of the positive benefits of evolving technology, Wu reminds us that the free market does not ask these questions for us - the onus is on us to examine the ways in which we're exercising our human ingenuity.