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Man Vs. Machine: How the Assembly Line Leads to Creative Decline

There’s a reason why the robots, cyborgs and machines are winning – and it all starts with the assembly line. The assembly line puts a person in place to specialize in doing one thing. Day after day, the employee does the same job, has the same responsibilities, and is used for his or her body. The mind stagnates. Creativity dies, and the employee becomes really good at, and sometimes blurry-eyed because of, the one thing he or she is supposed to do. Even with specialization, people mess things up because people aren’t made to specialize. It’s something that’s been forced upon humanity in the name of efficiency and profits. A person’s greatest strength isn’t in the ability to do the tedious job day after day; it’s in the ability to create.

Robots and machines are able to stand and do the same thing day after day without stop and without thinking about it. In fact, they were created to do just that – boring, mind-numbing jobs that people have a hard time doing. They can do these jobs better, faster and more reliably than people.

However, people don’t want machines that specialize; they want machines that do everything. Our phones are nominally phones. You could make a call if you wanted, but you’re most likely going to text someone. You use the Internet. It’s a GPS. It records notes in vocal and written form. It’s an arcade and movie theater. It takes pictures of everything from the latest Internet challenge to your last cup of coffee. It reminds us when to do things and can be used as an alarm clock. The phone has become the ruler of our time and our energy. It has even replaced our memory. How many phone numbers do you have memorized? If you lost your phone and had to borrow someone else’s, would you know who to call?

We can do almost anything with our phones, and we can’t do anything without them.

A lot of information is stored on the Internet, so we don’t bother to remember it because we know we can find it again. This is one important way that our new technology is detrimental to human beings’ most defining characteristic. Creativity requires that two formerly unrelated pieces of information intersect. If we don’t have that data in our mind, we won’t ever connect them. Search engines return groups of data that fit together and already have an intersection.

Machines don’t need AI to rule us. They just need to take away our ability to adapt and create while occupying our time. As they grow to become more general and we become more specialized, they will become us, and we will become them. In many respects, we are already there.

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‘Oblivion,’ Tech and the Question of Humanity

person holding black smartphone taking a picture of brown house at daytime

Even with its predictable plot, ridiculous need to stick to tired clichés, and Tom Cruise, “Oblivion” gives viewers cause to wonder what makes us human. Its answer is “our memories.”

As clone whose memory was wiped five years ago, Cruise’s character Jack is bound to a tower where he lives safely and ventures out to patrol the land, kill Scavs if he has to, and fix drones. However, since Jack is cloned from the best of humanity, he starts to wonder about his existence and the dreams he has about a woman he doesn’t know. When he meets her and meets himself with a different number, he realizes who he is and who he isn’t. She doesn’t mind. She’s his wife and says that it’s the memories that make a person who he or she is.

If memories are what make us who we are, humanity might be in trouble. Smart phones and the Internet are eroding are ability to remember things. There’s no reason to remember facts when they can be found easily with a quick search, but when you don’t practice using your memory, you begin to lose the ability to remember. This is seen in the “photo taking impairment effect.” Because we take a photo of it, our brain doesn’t have to remember it. While this hypothesis is still being tested and debated, the question is:

If we are our memories, who are we when we don’t remember anything, and who will be as a society when we forget our past? What happens to humanity when the phones have our memories? Perhaps, the movie has told us more than we realize… “Oblivion.”

For further consideration: