Galit Ariel | Salon: Convergence or Conflict?
Good evening everyone, this is my first talk in Toronto and I’m more than thrilled to be here today, so thank you for being here. And before we start, I have a slightly dark secret that I would like to share with you. Please don’t judge me too harshly. I used to date Italian men. I know. I know. I was young, my choice making wasn’t that up to par but I’m happy to tell you I’m fully rehabilitated, I’m married to a British man and there’s no drama in my life. And, on the other hand, through my professional career, I found a more concerning relationship that keeps me literally up at night, and that’s a relationship that not only I have but we all have, and that’s with technology. But let’s start in the beginning. How did we fall in love with technology? Well, my theory is that it all started with that divine joke, which is humanity. I don’t know if you noticed, but we are not really built for this world, everything is trying to kill us; from spiders to climate, we are not on the top of the food chain as much as we would like to believe. We don’t have extreme strength or speed, no claws to talk about and most of us don’t even have fur. So, we’re like wondering about on planet earth not being very happy until we found technology. And from the first time that we lit a fire in our caves, the fire lit in our eyes and we knew we found the perfect partner to help us overcome ourselves. And together, we were the ultimate power couple, we did amazing things together. We built shelters and cities, we clothe ourselves and others, we fed and fed others, everything was pretty much okay. It wasn’t perfect all the time, yes we did some not so desirable effects with technology but for the most part we were in control and everything was fine. But on the certain point, it changed. So, I don’t know how many of you have been in a relationship where on a certain day you wake up, you look to your right and something is off. You know that you’re no longer the alpha, and you’re not really sure why you’re together. And somewhere between the Industrial Revolution and the digital revolution, the honeymoon was over. It was probably the point where we stopped asking ourselves, why are we in this relationship? But ask ourselves, how much we can get out of it? And due to the digital revolution, we came to a point that our entire universe was mediated by technology; everything we did was facilitated, communicated and monitored by technology. And from a window to new worlds and horizons, it became a mirror, a mirror that not only reflects our culture and behaviour but also distorts them. And at that point, our relationship became toxic. And we have to admit it, because the only way to look into the future and better relationships is by having a critical look at the present. Certain things happened and changed, changed in a way that not only put in doubt our relationships but also our own nature, our humanity. The truth is that most tech companies understand that, they understand our human weaknesses, they understand our needs completely but instead of supplying us with answers, they take benefit of it. They create cognitive cycles that are only there to keep us engaged, without considering the value or benefit they are there to keep us in a constant loop intoxicated by the shiny lights and little approval, significant blinks and likes and views. Because we all want to be seen, we all want to be liked, it’s human nature. And we started trading off our happiness with this external affirmation, we traded off the rich interaction we have with the world with clicks and swipes on clean surfaces. Even the way that we experience the outdoors is with our back to it, as we’re taking a selfie. And with that, we lost the separation between our digital identity and our human identity. We are so terrified to be judged for who we are online, so much so that there’s even a disorder called “Snapchat dysmorphia”. It’s actually not very funny, it’s when people go to a plastic surgeon and ask to be adjusted according to their filter itself. And as we traded all our interactions with the world, we also gave up something very fundamental; we gave up our human rights. We gave up the right for privacy and we didn’t even consider that we need to have some digital civic rights. And organizations are taking advantage of this every single day. The biggest surveillance network is not created by governments; it is created by social media and digital platforms and now utilized by governments to quantify our behaviours and reward us in real time or punish us like they do in China. But, not all hope is lost because we still have a path of return. There are wonderful, magnificent things that are about to happen, we are in the cusp of having incredible technologies at the tip of our fingers. With quantum computing and artificial intelligence we can now solve the unsolvable, with gene therapy and biohacking we can cure the incurable; we can fabricate every single thing from spaces to limbs. And we are on the verge of another revolution where the digital and the physical will be united. We are about to have an immersive reality where we will be able to interact in access digital content through space and through our bodies. And this is unbelievable if we stop now and figure out where we want to get, because with exponential power comes exponential responsibility. And this is why today I’m calling for a couples therapy. I think it’s time for us to recalculate our path forward by looking critically at the past, at the origin of why we started creating technology. And I believe that it was to better the human experience in the context of humanity, and in the context of the ecosystem that we live in. And if we manage to find that route love that we do hold for technology and the need that we have for technology, we could recalibrate our path forward. And we will need to do some hard thinking as users and as content creators and as governments in order to create better principles of technological design and application. And if we do that, we will again have a healthy relationship that will lead us to an exponential future. And I believe we all deserve good relationships. So, thank you very much and let’s make technology great again.
Galit Ariel, Author, International Keynote Speaker, and TED Speaker
In this talk, Galit evokes the critical mind challenging her audience to consider the rights and privileges within the digital/physical space and the impact these will have as we continue to evolve as digital humans. Galit defines herself as a ‘digital hippie’ – since she is passionate about a future that will integrate technology into our everyday lives, but not control it. As a thought leader in augmented reality, she explores the wild and imaginative side of immersive technologies, but also their impact on our cultures, behaviours and ethical issues related to them. Her book ‘Augmenting Alice – The Future of Identity, Experience and Reality’ [July 2017] offers a context and futurescape to augmented reality applications, considering its impact on our public, personal and intimate space, that ultimately alters the way we experience reality and our sense of self.a notable keynote speaker and thought-leader in the field of immersive interaction.