Illustration: Anthony Foronda
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In a sense, that’s what technology has always done. That’s true with planes, trains and automobiles. And that’s true with smartphones, social networks and search engines. They, and other technologies, connect us to people who are not with us, geographically or physically, and make us feel a little less alone in this big confusing world.
…We do so through the digital footprints left behind on Facebook and Twitter, the photos on our smartphones, and all the morsels scooped up by search engines. Technology allows us to connect.
So does the good outweigh the bad? For me, yes. And I think it will in the future too, as newer technologies force us to grapple with even bigger ethical quandaries.
Take driverless cars, which I believe will have a huge, unknowable impact on society. When that technology becomes widely adopted — some say this will happen in two years; others say 20 — many will lament the negatives. Pizza delivery guys, truckers, taxi drivers and countless others could lose their jobs. Hackers and terrorists may turn driverless cars into weapons. Teenagers everywhere will no longer experience the joy of getting a driver’s license.
And yet, there will be many positives as well. Roads may be converted into parks. Finding parking may become a thing of the past (as will parking tickets). Driving time may be reclaimed for more productive or enjoyable activities, like watching movies, exercising or sleeping.
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Last year, Caitlyn Clark, 16, who lives near San Francisco, saw an anonymous Instagram hate page about some girls she knows.
“It’s one of those things that just kind of appears like randomly, just out of nowhere. Someone will get tagged in a picture of themselves and the caption is just something really horrible,” she says.
That account disappeared after just a few pictures went up. In its place, girls at Caitlyn’s school created a different Instagram account. Open it, and there’s row after row of smiling selfies with comments like:
Sara is a great person with a loving personality.
I agree. Sara is so cute and nice. Can we have more people like you on this planet?
There’s also the trend of the “challenge” on social media. Usually, it’s something like, “How many mouthfuls of cinnamon can you swallow?” Increasingly, there are challenges designed to spread self-esteem, kind of like a modern-day chain letter.
On Facebook, for example, users are called on to post three confident selfies and to tag 10 people you feel should share their beauty with the world.
Excerpt from this article on OgilvyDO:
…A Google Chrome plug-in which shields users from potentially upsetting content. Designed by Verve Search and inspired by ‘Everything Is Awesome’, Tegan & Sara’s infectious soundtrack to The Lego Movie, the app transforms text it deems inappropriate or insulting into the word ‘awesome’, spelled out in rainbow colours.
As a means of taking away cyber-bullies’ power, it’s a novel notion. The most obvious utility here would be as a parental tool, to protect younger and more vulnerable internet users from stumbling across language they’re not quite ready to process. It might even take off among grown-ups who have been cyber-shamed; I’m sure Justine Sacco, or Tim Hunt, or whichever poor soul Twitter targets next, would be thrilled with this pleasing-to-the-eye censor.
There’s no doubt that the trolls will be up in arms over this rainbow-hued infringement of free expression, and even some consumers may be concerned, especially after we all got so outraged when Facebook tried to moderate the content in our feeds. The difference here, of course, is that users have to opt in.