Technology: Information, Imagination, and more

Technology, of course, is having a massive influence on society.  But it isn’t technology itself but what it makes possible.  Two aspects to this are information and imagination.  Human potential is increased and so are moral issues.

Individuals and groups have more information technology which offers more power.  The results of this are too numerous to list.  A simple example is how cellphones have given oppressed people a quick and easy way to organize.  A protest can form and disappear before the police even realize what is going on.  On the other hand, technology offers better ways for the government to control its citizens and propaganda is becoming more advanced.

On the level of imagination, it’s even more interesting to consider the consequences.  Television and movies have opened wide the gates of our collective imagination.  And other things (such as cameras, software, and websites like YouTube) have given an opportunity for average people to create and explore possibilites.

The problem is that the more people know and imagine the more they become dissatisfied and restless.  And our normal lives pale against the fantasies we obsess over, whether porn or pop stars or travelling.  And this is the moral issue.  In the past people repressed their imaginations.  Thinking about unnatural sexual acts?  Just repress it and say 100 Hail Marys.  That often works, but often doesn’t.  Even priests end up acting on some of those urges.  And repression works even less in a culture like ours where everything you can imagine satiates the media.

Right now, many governments are trying to figure this all out.  Violence and sex are legislated, but imagination is more difficult to legislate.  It only becomes an issue when someone’s imagination becomes a product, something to be shared.  There has been many cases in the past decade about animated porn and violence.  In the US, violent video games have been mostly winning this battle as some big cases have been thrown out of the court. 

Anime porn is an even thornier issue.  Art has often been held above the level of pop culture, but the distinction grows less with advancement of technology.  Is a picture of an underage nude person porn?  Does it matter the intentions of the photographer?  Is there such a thing as tasteful nudity?  Is the human body to be considered a respectable subject of art?  Is it simply a matter of age?  If so, what about a painting of a nude underage person?  Or what about anime?  How legal officials determine the legality of photographic or video porn is by determining the person’s age, but how does one determine the age of an animated figure?  An anime character isn’t real and so how does age of consent apply?  And who is the victim?  Is society as a whole a victim?

It’s well-known that a certain sector of Japanese culture is obsessed with images of young girls.  And this has gone beyond anime.  There has been computer programs created that portray a cute underage girl you can play with and give gifts to.  There have been robots created to look young.  Would sex with an android that looked like a child still be pedophilia?  These are real questions society will be struggling with very soon.

I have some interest in virtual worlds, but I’ve only been on a couple of them such as Second Life.  I’ve heard of another one called Red Light Center.  It’s designed so that people can use avatars to have sex with other people’s avatars.  I don’t know but something seems missing in the equation.  Having virtual sex with a stranger’s virtual self doesn’t overly appeal to me.  But the concept of it is fascinating. 

This type of thing is just the beginning.  Such technological imaginations are also used towards practical ends.  Architects, chemists, and doctors all use these technologies to portray information visually.  Also, if you consider what science has learned, it’s going to be a brave new world.  Science has researched about how the brain works and various techniques to read minds and alter functioning.  Scientists now understand how brainwashing works and much money has been put into light and sound machines that can have powerful effects on the brain.

On a really dark note, the development of robots and AI have been put to military use.  The US has thousands of unmanned robots operating overseas.  I read about a problem when something went wrong with one robot and it started targeting US soldiers.  Wars of the future will be technological.  Warfare is already happening on the internet.  I forget which country, but one of Russia’s neighbors had its whole internet system knocked out.  Fortunately, they were prepared for such an attack, but many countries such as the US supposedly aren’t prepared.