Given our focus on the Deregulation of Life, it’s fitting that my blog this week comes as a result of the convergence of work and leisure.
At Trajectory, I regularly analyse the relationship between technology and society; how it has deregulated our lives, how it has affected our understanding of space and time, and the impact it has on our lives for better or worse. When I’m not at work, I’m still analysing things, they just tend to be far less productive. In this instance: Star Wars.
You might remember, before nursing your hangover on New Years’ Day, before the mulled wine and the mince pies, and before the inappropriate comments made by family members at the dinner table, a new installation of the saga, Rogue One, was released.
I won’t bore you with the details of the plot, but what I will say is that there is one technological development exhibited in the production of the film that raises a serious ethical question.
Two actors have been recreated through CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) – one dead since 1994, and one significantly older than their computerised counterpart (who has died since the writing of this post) – and the result is breathtaking.
This is not the first time a dead actor has been recreated by CGI, and this is not the first time the ethics of this process has been examined. This article outlines the discussion nicely; concluding that both now and in the future, we must consider ways to protect our likeness long after our deaths.
Though this example is useful, the issue goes well-beyond our likeness and is a problem not only restricted to actors, as many have experienced the pain and suffering of losing a loved one, only to have to fight Facebook to get their profiles removed. The technology of social media (first conceived as a means to a romantic end) now touches almost everything we do and is crucial to how we communicate and how we represent ourselves. This social media sprawl is representative of how all forms of technology infiltrate our lives, and the more we become intertwined with technology, the more our lives will change and new ethical debates will be waiting around every corner.
The internet has changed how we think about privacy, social media has changed how we think about freedom of speech and DNA testing allows us to know things not just about ourselves but also about unborn children to which we would never previously have been privy. In some instances, the way we feel about technology will change – there could be a backlash against the use of personal data, or conversely, people may just accept that data is being used so companies can better meet their needs. In others – as in the case of DNA testing – the pioneering nature of these advances mean that we will be having some debates for the first time; when is it ethical to terminate a pregnancy based on an inherited condition, should DNA be tampered with to create ‘better’ human beings?
With technological advances in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and virtual reality on the horizon, these debates will increasingly resemble the imagined realities of sci-fi writers and filmmakers.
Ethical considerations are a crucial component of consumption, but with such unfamiliar debates presented to consumers – increasingly arbitrated within the self-curated echo chambers of social media – we are set to encounter some of the most complex debates in human history at a time when the simplest messaging is the most effective.
As ever, when the status quo shifts, there are challenges and opportunities. The epochal shifts driven by technology are no different, and while knowledge of the issues is crucial, understanding how to represent these complex debates simply could be just as important.