Who says the apocalypse has to be bloody? Emojis and malware; #nofilter selfies and NSA surveillance; Twitter feeds and cyber wars—the digital apocalypse is a friendly face with very real, very unfriendly consequences that are affecting how we interact with our surroundings. Here’s how to deal.
Earlier this year, Stephen Hawking warned that artificial intelligence could bring about the end of humanity. He’s not the first to do so—AI has been a subject of contention for years—but his warning comes with recent advances that suggest that true AI is closer than ever, mysterious as ever, and all the more terrifying for it. What critics fail to see though, and what a lot of us take for granted, is that the digital apocalypse isn’t about artificial intelligence, and it’s not something that’s merely going to happen. The digital apocalypse is about us, and it’s happening right now.
A note about apocalypses: They happen all the time. The invention of the steam engine heralded the apocalypse of small-scale production and began the Industrial Revolution; the invention of the nuclear bomb saw the end of a world untouched by nuclear radiation; the invention of the Internet brought us here, to now, to you reading this on your phone or your computer or your tablet, anywhere around the globe. We’re here because we’re in the middle of an apocalypse.
Our relationship to technology has become so dependent that it affects the way we see, use, and experience the world. Think about social media, for instance. With Instagram, our surrounding environment and lives are literally filtered. With Twitter, news resembles a stream of consciousness, a constant barrage of information that quickly becomes obsolete. We live in an interface of our own creating. Our technologies, for better or worse, mediate our existence. If nothing else, it’s important to not take that for granted. The digital apocalypse we’re experiencing is this: Technology is becoming the way through which we understand the world. Technology is becoming our world.
But the digital apocalypse isn’t all doom and gloom. It’s not even all that exciting, at least in terms of what the apocalyptic movie genre has made us think of as exciting. Surviving this digital apocalypse is pretty easy, and there are a few ways to do it. So, in the tradition of the infamous listicle, here are three options for dealing with our digital apocalypse (now):
Option No. 1: Embrace your Emoji Overlords
The world is much better today that it was 30, 20, even 10 years ago. And if human development means living in a world created by technology, then you’re fine with it. #realtalk
Option No. 2: Reject Everything
The Internet creates more problems than it solves. With every new app, program, or shiny little trinket, thousands of lives are devastated through corporate greed and environmental destruction. Our world is turning into something unrecognizable, teeming with apathy and false hope in technology as some one-size-fits-all savior. Rejecting our programmed lives is the only way to revolt, and you’re not just ready to do it, you already have.
Option No. 3: Become Aware
Recognizing there’s a problem is the first step to solving it. The Internet and our technology-centric lives do can’t be ignored simply because tech can also be wielded for good. Social media, the Internet, gadgets, and apps — they’re all tools, and it’s not enough to use them the “right” way. We need to know how they work, why they work, and only then can the tools we used be separated from the at times less-than-stellar power hegemonies we exist in.
So there you have it. Three very different ways to handle our increasingly digital lives. You can embrace tech, reject tech, or educate yourself on tech’s benefits and limitations. Which option will you choose?