And…. here we are! The final morning!
We are kicking off with the enigmatically entitled ‘Flinging Stars into Space’ with Pete Phillips.
Controvesial statement to start with while expressing a love of technology: I no longer wear an apple watch because it is a dead technology.
For Pete, the digital is all about what it means to be human.
We’re looking at the future.
Ex Machina is a film based on the Turing Test and we watched the trailer
While it’s all about robots, the centre piece of the film is actually primarily about the relationship between the two men working on the turing test. Here and in TV series like Westwing robots are treated as less than humans. We objectify them and make them our tools.
This is the first approach, making robots humanlike. The other is to make humans more robotlike — to hack themselves and add technology to ourselves. Apparently in Switzerland you can get an operation to replace your hand with a robotic hand. People implant different devices into their arms. One man had cameras put in his eyes. Pete knows a diabetic who has a device implanted in their hip to monitor their blood sugar and maintain their insulin. The idea of having robot helper for the elderly will likely not happen — we will surveil them via their devices and cameras to check their okay; a high tech ‘grandpa monitor’. Medical Surveillance is a huge and live ethical question at the moment.
Great clip, worth watching twice and then again next week.
Pete then turned to the question of looking at how we engage with spirituality and digital culture, with particular emphasis on the disciplines which we need to implement — we need a Christian voice in this sphere of life.
One of the key things to do when it comes to engaging with ‘future casting’ is to explore a variety of different views. To this end Pete passionately encouraged us to read several sci-fi authors, especially women. One of these was All the birds in the Sky.
Another example which actually doesn’t follow the technological progressiveism we might expect from science-fiction is Walk Away by Cory Doctorow. There were several other books mentioned which covered themes from AI to nature to space to fascism and liberty and so on. Many tech writers write about tech, but the best sci-fi works capture the experience, the feeling and the reality of the relationships. Apparently in Walk Away there is a section talking about different water pools in a sauna which focuses on the sensations rather than the technology which heated or cooled the water and so on.
A common theme is a sense of anxiety about what will happen in the future.
Humanity is moving on and on and we need to ask what we want to do with Tech? We want to shape tech in such a way that it is shaped by us. Do we value human lives enough to make sure that technology doesn’t lead to gated communities of wealth becoming removed from those who don’t have it — as represented well in Elysium (trailer not played in the session). This led into an interesting conversation surrounding the value of human life, with the acknowledgement that social media and technology is increasingly commodifying human beings.
Dr Robot, the Amazon Prime show, was also featured as a disturbing insight into the advance of technology in culture.
We have a choice.
We could go off grid; withdraw from the relentless advance of technology.
We could stay on grid; and engage with technology constructively. Can we take our values and use and shape technology in the way we think is good. For instance, solar panels on church roofs as a way of helping the environment and providing our own power.
The next place that companies and technology wants to be is inside us.
Medical and recreational technology assisting and enhancing our experiences of life.
We moved on to the digital dualism which was discussed yesterday, the photoshopped selfies and so on.
What is great about digital culture is that it challenges us all over again on how to be properly human.
Pete then encouraged us with the following vision:
An equally inspirational and intimidating assessment of the future and the possibilities of engaging with the future of not just technology but of humanity itself.