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Outsourcing trust to technology


My sister had taken care of our 15-year-old for a week and was saying, over breakfast, that cell phones were a gift from the gods. She didn’t have to worry where he was. How did parents in the old days used to manage?

Well, they relied more on trust. Whether the kids were running around the neighborhood or riding trains in Europe, they had to trust they were OK, and that eventually they’d hear from them (ie. us). Now we’ve outsourced that trust to machines.

This brings two troubles: 1) When machines falter, when batteries go dead, panic can come quickly. Many of us have grown addicted to constant communication, or at least the availability of it, and have lost the structure of trust that sustained generations. It’s like a muscle that has atrophied in the last decade. 2) Tracking and surveillance technology is only going to grow stronger. And every time we chose safety over chance and knowledge over faith, we’ll opt for the machines—making ourselves more vulnerable and less free as we do.

My sister had taken care of our 15-year-old for a week and was saying, over breakfast, that cell phones were a gift from the gods. She didn’t have to worry where he was. How did parents in the old days used to manage?

Well, they relied more on trust. Whether the kids were running around the neighborhood or riding trains in Europe, they had to trust they were OK, and that eventually they’d hear from them (ie. us). Now we’ve outsourced that trust to machines.

This brings two troubles: 1) When machines falter, when batteries go dead, panic can come quickly. Many of us have grown addicted to constant communication, or at least the availability of it, and have lost the structure of trust that sustained generations. It’s like a muscle that has atrophied in the last decade. 2) Tracking and surveillance technology is only going to grow stronger. And every time we chose safety over chance and knowledge over faith, we’ll opt for the machines—making ourselves more vulnerable and less free as we do.


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