59. Has technological innovation made us better or worse off?

The internet and the “internet of things” has completely changed our world. On one hand, this tech has helped make our world safer, on the other hand we now live in a world where tech has caused us to lose our privacy. Today Connor and Brittany discuss the role tech has played in our modern world.

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Here is the transcript of our conversation:

 

Connor: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: Hi, Connor.

Connor: So, I am kind of a tech geek. I have used, you know, technology my whole life, since I was a kid. I remember playing Oregon Trail, apple Computer, which now they, I guess have done, they make remakes of anything, of everything these days, I swear. but, you know, back in the day, always plan on computers, learning how to code on computers, you know, using AOL when it first came out. Yeah, I remember that. All the CDs with a hundred free hours of internet. Yep. Kids these days, can’t imagine what it’s like to have to pay for hours of internet and have to, you know, get these CDs in the mail, have to plug into a modem. Oh, what a world. But I love it

Brittany: All the sounds and everything

Connor: Modems. So technology to me is a lot of fun. I, think technology has given us many great things. I mean, you know, we can think of like in, the medical space, just, you know, surgeries and technologies and medicines and all kinds of things to smartphones as we call them, and how it connects us to basically like the entire knowledge of, of the world. You know, bringing us everything that we could ever dream of wanting to learn about in the palm of our hand. It seems to me that technology has, made our lives better off in many ways. but there’s a, a downside to technology. we’ve talked in the past about, you know, dystopian stories about how the world can be portrayed in really crazy, awful ways. Super powerful government. No one has liberty anymore, and I think there’s a lot of potential for technology to be used in bad ways by the government and by other people, you know, to spy on us and things like that. so the question I wanna dive in today with you is, just straight up, has technological innovation made us better? or has it made things worse for us? What are your thoughts?

Brittany: That’s a good question. Cuz even when I think of really positive things like social media, I can also think of bad things with social media. So I think like, okay, well it’s good, it’s kept all of us connected, but now people are, people are meaner, I feel, because you can be meaner from a keyboard, it’s not as scary as having to be mean to someone’s face. So maybe as a society, we’ve gotten a little bit meaner, but we are all connected, more connected now. So it’s like this double-edged sword. it’s a tricky one because again like you said, there are drones, for example, there were drones during the peak of the COVID pandemic, and they were delivering supplies to hospitals and doing things that we could never have done without these innovations. But then you have the same thing at drone which has been used, you know, in war to, take lives to kill people. And so it’s good and it’s bad, right?

Connor: Yeah. I kind of think it’s like a gun where it’s just a tool and guns can do amazing things to save people’s lives from, you know, predators or, threats, people who want to harm someone else. It can fend people off from the most powerful superpower in the world. Like when the American colonists fought back against Great Britain, which at the time was the world’s superpower. And, so, a gun can be used for wonderful, helpful things. It can also, of course, be used for completely horrible things. it’s more the intent of the person who’s using that tool. and so yeah, as you say, like, like think of DNA right? right now it’s very popular for people to go to like Ancestry or to 2023 mean, right? Yep. Yeah. Some of these companies that will allow you to spit in a tube, give your saliva, and then you mail it to the company and they’ll, you know, do all their science and pull out your DNA and turn it into a little computer data file with all the GATC kind of DNA codes, and they’ll tell you all kinds of things that research has shown about, you know, your health. they’ll show you kind of who your relatives are in their database. Like, Hey, we found a long lost cousin, and really, I didn’t know they do that. Yeah, you can, that’s fun. Connect with family members, there. And so you’ve had people like who’s been adopted who never knew their birth, family, for example, and they’ll find their birth families. That’s amazing by, you know, and, and yeah, you read these stories and they’re so incredible about how DNA can help in, those cases. In, the government realm, it’s also extremely helpful because there have been people, sentenced to death, right? Who are gonna be killed by their own government for this crime that they submitted, supposedly committed? Let’s say it’s a murder. And, you know, a jury convicts them. They have all the whole court hearing and everything A jury says, you did it beyond, you know, reasonable doubt. And so that person now sits on death row and you know, they’re probably gonna appeal their case and try and get another court to hear it, and they’re gonna drag things out. these cases sometimes take a while, but the government executes people. It literally kills people who are, sentenced to death in this way. And DNA has been used successfully in many, many cases to prove that the individual who is locked up on death row, who a jury said, you know, there’s no doubt or beyond a reasonable doubt that you did It. turns out they didn’t. Right. Turns out that bloody handkerchief that they found at the scene of the crime has someone else’s blood. Right. And DNA now can prove that someone’s, you know, some type of evidence or, or whatever is not that person’s DNA. So there’s all kinds of people who are being freed, and, you know, let off of death row led out of prison because DNA has been helpful. So that technology is so incredible. But then on the other hand, when all these databases are now containing all of our private DNA

Brittany: Yep, that’s the scary part.

Connor: Yeah. Now law enforcement knows this, and so police are using these databases to go on these fishing expeditions and snoop around in people’s DNA and try and find connections. We’ve talked before, Brittany, about the Fourth Amendment, right? and how you know, if the police want to invade your privacy, they need to get a judge to agree they need a warrant. They need something called probable cause. In other words, they need to have a really good reason and convince a judge. But now, with these massive databases full of, our DNA what’s happening is police aren’t getting warrants. The Fourth Amendment isn’t being followed, and our sensitive DNA information is just thrown together in these massive websites for the law enforcement just goes snooping around. And so, yeah, it can do an amazing, thing, but it can also do horrible things as well. Exactly. To your point.

Brittany: So I have a question for you. So I’m not a parent, but I’m wondering what you think, I know there are a lot of parents that like to keep their kids away from tech until they’re a certain age. And by tech, I mean smartphone specifically things with screen time is a big issue. And I don’t really know, what did you kind of explain that to me? Is, there a threat that they think that access is gonna violate privacy? Or is it more that, people are worried that their kids will lose touch with, with just, you know, traditional ways of learning books, you know, taking notes, things like that?

Connor: Yeah, I think it’s more the latter. screen screens can be very addicting. And you know, you look at the statistics about how much TV people watch Yeah. How much they’re on their devices. In fact, now the iPhones, I’m sure like Androids have it too, but I know about Oh,

Brittany: The screen time.

Connor: Yeah.

Brittany: Oh, I don’t like that. Yeah,

Connor: Because that screen time application says, oh, hey, in the past week you’ve been on your phone like 1800 the time. And so it is very revealing. And, so we are kind of, um, drawn into these devices and the information they contain. And, you know, you start scrolling and before long you’ve wasted two hours and you’re like, what have I done with my life? So I think parents are more concerned with the, susceptibility or the likelihood of a child to spend a ton of time using this device and not, you know, get their chores done, not read out of a book, as you said, not go outside,

Brittany: Not go outside, yeah. Yeah.

Connor: Interact with other humans. And so most of the parents who have these concerns just feel like, it can be too addicting. And because young kids don’t know how to kind of self-regulate and control their behaviour and stay away from addicting things, you know, it’s the same reason why they would say, you know, don’t do drugs. Like, you need to let your brain form and your body grow. And at a young age, if you start doing things that can cause addictions, you know, it can lead to problems. and so I think it’s the same way with screens. But, again, like I think Brittany when I was young when I would go visit my grandparents, I, have this fond, maybe it’s not a fond memory, but I have a memory where when we would go visit my grandparents, it had been like a year since I saw them, right? Because they lived in another state. And so the first day I’d have to spend like getting re-familiarized with them, like when I’m a little kid, right? Like, oh yeah, you’re my grandma and you’re a safe person, and like, you know, you’re part of the family. But those first like hours or first day was always a little awkward because I hadn’t seen this person in a Better Way, Whereas with my kids, you know, they could Skype with grandma, grandpa, and every other day they were, you know, using FaceTime or Marco Polo and, just the ability of technology to bring people together like that has been amazing. Like, you live away from your family. I’m, sure you use technology to keep It.

Brittany: Did you said Marco Polo? We do that. Yeah. Cause I have, you know, nine brothers and sisters, and they are all married and they have kids. So we’re all on the Marco Polo app. And so we’ll send each other video messages. We just have a, a big thread going. So it’s, I mean, they’re hundreds of messages on there now. So yeah, without that I couldn’t, you know, I haven’t been able to meet some of my nieces and nephews in person, but I’ve been able to meet them, like you said, via screen time. So it’s been, again, there’s that, it’s kind of both things, right? There are pros and cons to technology.

Connor: So let me ask you a question now. So with a con, let’s imagine, Brittany, that you are a worker at McDonald’s and all of your coworkers are fighting for a $15 minimum wage. That’s kind of one of the popular things right now. Fight for 15. Yes. And, what do you feel as a McDonald’s worker, that technology so, maybe I’ll kind of reveal what I’m thinking? so it’s a bit more clear. So, you know, the folks in charge of McDonald’s are like, well, we can pay all these people even more money, or we can just pay this company over here who created this touchscreen little device where people, when they walk in the restaurant can just tap and, create their order, not have to interact with any workers. And that order immediately goes back to the kitchen and they prepare it and call your name. So if you’re a McDonald’s worker and your employee, your, peers your coworkers are all fighting for $15, and this newfangled device is coming out and being introduced, do you feel like technology is a net positive or a net negative in your life?

Brittany: It’s interesting you brought this up. So there is an author and I will link to him, and he was, he’s not an economist, but he’s, he writes about economics. So his name was Henry Haslet, and he wrote a book called Economics in one lesson, and there’s a chapter called The Curse of the Machinery. And you reminded me of that because back in the day when machines were being, I mean, becoming a thing, right? They didn’t use to be a thing during the Industrial Revolution, as people were able to start making things, you know, be machine mass produce other people, like the workers were getting upset and they were saying, you’re taking our job. Like this machinery is going to steal our jobs. And every like, couple of decades we see this happen. This is happening again. Now where people think these touch screens are maybe gonna steal jobs, but when one thing gets destroyed, another thing is also created, right? So, there’s no saying that there won’t be better jobs available to these people. That’s, what I think. It’s, a scary adjustment, but I think it’s better off for us overall.

Connor: You reminded me of an article I wrote, years ago. I’m looking, this was June 2008. And so the 2008 election was kind of a campaign was under

Brittany: That was a long time ago.

Connor: Yeah. Barack Obama was running for president, and so he was then a senator. And so in this article, I linked to, we’ll link to it on the show notes page as well as the article Brittany mentioned. So you’ll find that Tuttletwins.com/podcast. so here is then-Senator Obama trying to become President Obama, and he said Globalization, in other words, you know, now we’re interacting with people all over the world. Globalization and technology and automation all weaken the position of workers. So he is saying it’s not good for workers, people who have jobs like at McDonald’s or, you know, the janitor or the carpenter or, you know, whatever he’s saying, it’s not good for these workers when you have automation and technology. And then he said, that a strong government hand is needed to assure that wealth is distributed more equitably. In other words, because the free market is causing problems because people all over the world are working together because it’s cheaper to buy things from China because it’s cheaper to buy a touch screen and, no longer employ those, you know, five people working at the front of, the line of McDonald’s. You know, these are all bad things for workers. And so we need the government to come in and like guarantee, you know, things for people to provide them money to prevent these machines. I like that you brought up Henry Haslet. this article that, we’ll link to that I wrote years ago includes a quote from Frederick Mosia. Ah goodness. And of course, our readers know that our food truck fiasco book was based of economics in one lesson, which is the book Brittany that you just mentioned. And so that’s based on Henry Haslet. And then the title Twins Learn About the Law is based on Frederick Mosia’s book. So these guys are great economic thinkers. And in Basquiat’s, quote, of course, this was written in like 1849, I think, is published in 1850. Here’s what Basquiat says. And you have gotta remember Frederick Basquiat when you when you read the law, his actual essay, he uses, a bit of satire. In other words, he likes to kind of poke fun at people a little bit and be kind of playful, which I like, I like that writing style. Yeah, it’s good. And so here’s what he says. He says, A curse on machines every year. They’re increasing power condemns to poverty, millions of workers taking their jobs away from them, and with their jobs, their wages, and with their wages. Wages is the money they’re earning with their wages, their bred a curse on machines. And then he says, that is the cry rising from ignorant prejudice. In other words, people who don’t know any better and whose echo or whose voice resounds in the newspapers, but to curse machines, he says is to curse the human mind. Oh, and, so I like this Brittany because first he’s kind of poking fun at people. Look, 170 years ago, people were even back then saying, technology is bad. It’s bad for workers. No, no, we don’t like this. It’s happening 170 years ago. It’s happening still today. And then he says, these are ignorant people who don’t understand, they’re ignorant, but it’s also popular. He’s saying they’re, echo resounds in the newspapers. Like this is a very popular position to take. And it is, right? You’ve seen it all over the place. I certainly have. but then I love how he ends on that point to curse machines, is to curse the human mind. Brittany, what comes to mind when he says that? What do you

Brittany: Think of two things. I had never heard that quote before, so I’m kind of taking it all in. But second, I mean, there’s no machine that wasn’t made by you said you liked coding, right? As a kid, or even now.

Connor: Yeah. Yeah.

Brittany: So a human still had to do that. A human had to design the machine. They had to code it, they did to create everything. So, that just kind of hit home for me because again, the AI or machinery really is just, you know, human creation.

Connor: And the people that work at McDonald’s don’t wanna work at McDonald’s forever. They want to gain new skills. They wanna move up the career ladder. They want to gain new abilities that will make them able to charge more money for people. And so look, as technology replaces their jobs, as you pointed out earlier, Brittany, there are gonna be new jobs that are needed, maybe someone to maintain those machines, maybe clean those machines, install those machines, code those machines, design those machines. And so as we’ve seen throughout world history, technology makes our lives better. You know, we’re able to record a podcast and talk together from opposite ends of the country. Yeah. and I think I was just in your backyard and you were just in my backyard, or you’re about to be in my, I’m

Brittany: About again. Yeah.

Connor: You know, and so we can travel these, planes and conveniences and cell phones, and they make our lives better, and they create all kinds of new jobs. And we don’t want a world where we all have to be farmers, you know, and, and, just work at the farm. And so technology has made it so that just a few people can be farmers and the rest of us can go do other things and the world is better. so super fun topic. I’m a big believer in technology. And yes, like anything, it can be abused, right? There are problems. But on the whole, I think it makes all of our lives better. We will link to both these articles that we mentioned, Tuttletwins.com/podcast. As always, make sure that you are subscribed and share it with a friend so that we can get other families to listening as well. And until next time, Brittany, talk to you later.

Brittany: Talk to you later.

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