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Imperica. A great site about technology, art, digital culture, advertising and the wider creative industries. I’ve written for them before. I’m a fan – and not just of the excellent #webcurios, a newsletter of sorts that is written by Matt Muir and gets sent out each Friday.

I wrote some new things recently, which Imperica has kindly offered to post. You should really read them over there, although they may also get posted over here. The first went live last week, the second hasn’t even been written, but it will undoubtedly be an ad hoc series of sorts.

Do let me know if you disagree, or tell Imperica if you love it. All comments are welcome, except the spam ones.

I’m Not Responsible
This post first appeared on Imperica.

I’ve been musing on this thought for a while: we’re outsourcing responsibility.

Sadly, I’d not put aside the time to get it down on paper. And then I read this piece, Anticipatory Computing: The Next Big Thing Is Enabling Laziness by Tomasz Tunguz, a venture capitalist at Redpoint Ventures.

I think this is an example of what I’m talking about. In a broad sense.

And another example is in John Higgs’ excellent sci-fi satire, The First Church on the Moon. He creates a terrible time in human history. It’s a time in which we’ve uploaded everything to the ‘cloud’ and that the backing up of all human information is sub-contracted out so many times that when the inevitable collapse of the ‘cloud’ happens it turns out the final back up was – you’ve guessed it – in the ‘cloud’.

Every shred of human knowledge and history is lost, forever. Culturally, the human race changes in an instant.

Of course, it’s ludicrous, right?

So, let’s get back to non-fiction.

There is a important point to make here before you read any further: technology is not making us more stupid, which is the line most people trot out when they talk about the fundamental changes society is undergoing in the wake of recent technological evolutions. It’s deeper than that.

I had a conversation with Dave Birss about the idea that we’re outsourcing responsibility. I was quite passionate about it, even turning around from the front seat of the car transporting us from Bournemouth to London to talk to him. I think I may have started pointing my finger, even though he was receptive to the idea.

We’re outsourcing our responsibility – as humans, as parents, and as skilful, useful practitioners. The singularity says that computers become intelligent and sentient. I contest that it’s simpler than that: we will simply forget how to do the most practical of things and rely, instead, on a dumb machine to do things for us.

I know of people who can’t tell the time – analogue or digital; I know kids who don’t know where milk comes from, and other kids who have this weird concept that the apples they can buy at the supermarket aren’t the same as the apples that are grown on trees. I see people who can’t drive their car anywhere without putting the satellite navigation on, lest they get lost on the school run.

It’s not that we should consider keeping all learnings in our own brains, but we should be choosy about what we’re giving up.

Interacting as a parent can not be given over to an iPad or phone; being told what to think cannot be done by Twitter or Facebook – we must still retain the ability to make our own judgements and be prepared to go against the grain; we should remember creativity, exploration and what liminal states provide rather than accept that the internet contains the right answers every time.

We should take responsibility for our actions lest technology become something we’re dependent upon to such an extent that the best job we can do is push a button when a light comes on.

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