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Technology and the loss of agency

We are increasingly dependent upon technology for more of lives, but we are not getting any better equipped for life.

With books with only text, we are heavily reliant upon the author bringing their characters to life, but also upon our ability to imagine them given the few words written. An example of this is in the first few pages of Ninja by Eric Van Lustbader, where they draw a very vivid picture of a person suffering a relationship bust-up and other worries in their life, before becoming a victim of a ninja's target practice. It is the remarkable depth the author gives to such a transitory character in very few pages that makes it very easy to make the character real in our imaginations.

Of course, we are also heavily reliant upon their describing the environments so that we really get to feel as if we can be there. That is unless the language used does not convey much at all, like in Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stephenson, where all the landscapes are described using Scottish words so that it is impossible to tell what of the landscape the words apply to. Of course, pictures help us to bypass some of our imagination. This is why comics are a hit with kids, who tend to lack the vocabulary to understand the look of things by their description.

Makers of modern games and movies spend $millions on CGI to make it a no-brainer as to what the scene environments and action looks like, so that we are spared having to use our imaginations. Games are constantly aiming for photorealism to that end. This is all as if we should not be allowed to actually use our imaginations. However, we are still reliant upon how well the characters' dialogs are written for how well we can immerse ourselves into the storyline, at least until the makers can work out how to turn our imaginations off for that as well.

Technology has allowed our entertainment to require less of our imagination with each advance in it. But this is true of much of our use of technology. Even for creators, AI is requiring less of them in terms of skill. AI isn't intuitively creative in that it cannot come up with truly novel ideas according to deep insight into our psychology and our sense of need and desire, but only recombine existing material in ways suggested by our requests.

This is where AI will takeover those jobs that are largely responding to spurious requests for new ways to present existing information, as is common in many corporations. The real problem is that AI is being fed with tremendous amounts of trivia, which gets worse as more and more people learn to live their lives without engaging their imaginations to solve the real-world problems faced by a majority of the world's population, but which are largely ignored in the masses of information that AI is fed with. It is a vicious cycle of trivia begetting more trivia.

Technology is being used to supplant our thinking rather than augment it, just because we are getting used to not actually using our brains to do meaningful and useful things, while big tech companies are falling over themselves to find what they can further dumb us down with. This is not to say that we should just do trivial thinking tasks to keep our brains in practice, but there are plenty of apps for that too. This is similar to where we now have to exercise to be fit, whereas we used to get fit enough from the work that we did.

In all this technology, we are losing our ability to maintain perspective on what we can really do with our lives. We are becoming lost in a sea of distractions that do nothing to keep us or the planet from being destroyed. This is not about regressing to some pre-technology time in history, but knowing what we really need help from technology with, and what of it to let go of. We need agency in our lives, and not keep outsourcing our brains to technology. Most of it is not designed to help us, but as a distraction so that we do not notice we are being exploited.

Lots of people makes money off us being dependent upon what they offer. Those people are not our friends, and we need to take back our agency in our own lives to switch ourselves off our dependencies upon them. That is not in rejecting technology per se, but in only using what we find useful to enabled further being in control of our lives.

The other aspect of dealing with finding meaning in our lives is in us looking within to find what we really need, and what we can do to make this world better for us and all those people we share this planet with. With that we will be in a better position to filter out the massive amounts of propaganda, including advertising, that is persuading us that exploitation though addiction is good for us. We owe it to ourselves to minimise our dependencies on those who do us no good.

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