Are people becoming too dependent on computers?
Since the computer was introduced in modern society, mankind has been experiencing an increasing influence from its power of leveraging changes. Looking at this scenario in perspective, it would not be unreasonable to assert that there no more exists sectors in society or interpersonal interactions that have not been modified by the use of technology. A very relevant side effect of this wide spectrum of influence is the emergence of a dependency relation from people to computers. Nevertheless, if such a relation is excessive or undesirable to human relations or not, it depends on how the impact of this dependency is absorbed by people in general. A manner to runway an evaluation like this is by considering significant changes in the society that were supported by the use of computers. Giving a step forward, an analysis of trends to the future may provide an even more accurate reflection.
From the Past to the Present
The history of the influence of computers on society may clearly be related to the rise of the integrated circuit in the 1960s (Winston, 2003). Previously, computers had their operations restricted to what could be represented and stored on a tape or punched cards. Naturally, this modus operandi represented a barrier to the wide diffusion of computers. However, integrated circuits leveraged the capacity of operating systems to handle tasks more and more complex and to offer a user-interface increasingly friendly. In this context, Microsoft Windows arose a very popular operating system reaching millions of users around the world. While personal computers (PC) were establishing as an accessible domestic product, the bunch of tools that have been developed concomitantly has been changing the way how families handle the activities inside the home. Tasks like managing the domestic budget, guiding the children’ homework, editing photos and pictures were dramatically affected by electronic sheets, digital encyclopedias and software for images edition.
Before the advent of the Internet, computers were like islands where people are gradually exploring their capabilities and incorporating them into their lives. Nevertheless, after the launching of the ARPAnet and subsequent creation of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) by Tim Berners-Lee, the era of the modern Internet had its beginning. Now, computers are able to link people, organizations, and knowledge. This breakthrough brought to society a profusion of possibilities that have crossed each aspect of human life: entertainment, education, business, research, health care, and an endless list of other ones. This power of the Internet of change and keep changing the modern man’s life has leveraged a countless of correlated technologies and behaviors: streaming for fun, e-learning for education, video conference for business by quoting just a few of them.
From the Present toward the Future
Focusing on the future, the dependency relation that ties humans to computers looks like it will become increasingly tight. Some technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) point out the force of such a bond. The human society has been observing the growth of an industrial and a digital revolution that represents a boundary to a new era. Currently, the transformation process promoted by AI is already felt by society: bots interacting with customers, smart houses and smart cities exploring the Internet of Things (IoT), connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) are some examples of the technologies supported by AI and that has dramatically affected the modern lifestyle. However, since an increasing volume of AI advancements has been publishing in the literature, it is not unrealistic to affirm that the dependency of such a technology will follow growing.
Another disruptive innovation that has emerged recently brings a huge impact on the global financial system and promotes a radical change in the manner of ledgers are handled nowadays. Blockchain technology arose with the concept of distributed validation of ledgers which means a revolution on confidence among business relations. The possibility of removing intermediate entities to guarantee the trustability of any type of transaction has been changing the way of exchanging information. Supported by this same technology, cryptocurrencies emerged in the global scenario proposing a trade model where no financial institution is required. Both proposals are utterly computational which reinforces the dependency relation from humans. Moreover, considering that much research is being employed on such topics and that the impact over society is increasingly deep, it is a common sense that humans are being guided to an even more dependent relation to computers
In Conclusion …
A mere superficial observation of society after the emergence of integrated circuits and the Internet advent is able to conduct any observer to the unquestionable conclusion: the impact caused by the insertion of computers in human life has been changed our society permanently. It would not be exaggerated to consider modern life as infeasible without the wide use of computational technology. Common daily tasks like to buy flight tickets, to make a hotel reservation or just to watch a preferred series and to talk to friends of a social network would become too complicated or impossible without a PC connected to the Internet. However, the direction in which modern society is moving on indicates that such a dependency relation is far from disappearing. Actually, all innovations that are emerging over the support of AI are holding people more and more in a network of amenities which are disabling men to live in the absent of them.