You Autocomplete Me

There’s no shortage of new-age criticism regarding where technology is taking us as a culture and species. We’re becoming mindless robots. Technology is robbing us of our humanity. The tangible fabric of society is being incrementally replaced by 1’s and 0’s. And while I understand the very human inclination to fear and resist the unfamiliar, if that’s your view of what technology represents, I’m afraid you’ve got everything backward (at least in my view). Not slightly askew or just left of center, but completely inverted. Technology is not stealing our humanity, it’s finally providing everyone the opportunity to experience a truly unique and authentic version of it.

It’s much too late to reject the wave of information currently curating our experiences. Unless you’re completely off the grid (in which case I’d be very curious to know how you’re reading this) you’re already being served by the algorithmic filters of our modern age, and likely have been for quite some time. And the ironic thing is that those in fear of this filtering the most, are often the ones most in need of the techno-induced backhand that allows them to finally see into their own personal matrix. The minute we open up and allow technology (i.e. our current phenomenological reality) to envelop us, is the moment we begin to truly understand ourselves. It’s just a matter of perspective.

How many of us really know ourselves and know exactly what we want? Few of us get anywhere close to content with our answers to these deeply existential questions, but increasingly (and perhaps unknowingly), we’re erecting the digital scaffolding capable of helping us see through the fog. Technology is becoming a personal autocomplete feature running in the background of our existence. Amazon, Google, Facebook, Netflix; they are the precursors to truly knowing ourselves, and if we continue to leverage these technologies (which we will), they will continue to expose us in surprisingly personal ways. The confusion isn’t about whether we will use these technologies, it’s about the dynamic that will surface given their inevitable use. Are we moving towards a dehumanizing overlord, or perhaps a very humanizing mirror — a mirror we’ve collectively designed with the capacity to reflect back the most human elements of ourselves? The things about us that we’re either unaware of or incapable of discovering on our own.

If we accept that the creation of new technologies and information will continue and that the processing power and filtering potential will follow suit, then it seems inevitable that we will be continuously sharpened into more authentic versions of ourselves. A race of distinctly human humans coexisting with the autocompleting digital mirrors that allow us all to see who we really are.

Inspired by ideas and insights from The Inevitable, by Kevin Kelly.