Natasha Naman Temesgen: Slouching toward the singularity

May 3, 2014 

Kahlia Lawrence, left, and Deja Cheatham throw candy to people gathered on Broadway in downtown Columbus Saturday morning for a parade celebrating Kendrick's GHSA Class AA state championship win in March.

MIKE HASKEY — Mike Haskey

'The singularity is near," my old roommate always reminded me. By this, she meant that the moment human beings "evolve" to become one with technology was imminent. She was eccentric, but she was definitely onto something.

Robots are all around us. You may recognize them by their other names: vacuum cleaner, GPS, calculator. And then there's the Internet. I wake up with it, spend most of the day with it, and let it sleep on my bedside table in the form of a smartphone. Most days, I feel I've already evolved.

My dad joked that when he first read George Orwell's "1984," he never imagined we'd willingly share so much personal information with Big Brother. But as we've become one with the Internet, we've shared everything from photos of our dinner to birth announcements on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. What's more, we expect heaps of approval for every post. (My favorite line in the song #SELFIE by The Chainsmokers is, "I only got 10 likes in the last 5 minutes. Do you think I should take it down?")

I admit. I'm addicted. But what about those of us who only use technology for basic communication: email, texts and phone calls. Those people should be safe, right?

If the recent Donald Sterling debacle is any indication, wrong. Here's the tricky part. We shouldn't just be concerned with our own use of technology, but also our relationships with those around us that use it. In the case of Sterling, billionaire owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, he was banned for life from the NBA after audio recordings of his racist word vomit went viral. You would think he was secretly recorded, right? But no… according to TMZ, he has actually archived over 100 hours of his own conversations, because at 80 years old he felt his memory was fading and wanted his thoughts accessible.

Where did he go wrong, besides holding deep-seated prejudices? He was naïve about the power of technology paired with the power of the human brain. He presumably never considered that his girlfriend/archivist might do something with this technology.

I remember my early days of Facebook. I was a college freshman and the site was only months old. The idea of sharing my picture for all users to see was strange enough. But imagine my shock and horror when I logged in one morning and saw unflattering pictures of myself dancing like a goofball at some party.

I untagged them, temporarily relieved. But the photos will always be somewhere, in a Facebook album or hard drive or archive database. The scary truth: simply being in a public place may lead to your undesirable features, be they images or words, living permanently online.

Lesson? Hide in a closet with analog books and strip search people for technology when they come to visit you. Or follow me on Twitter. I'm using it again.

Natalia Naman Temesgen is an independent correspondent. Contact her at nataliadian1@gmail.com or on Twitter @cafeaulazy.

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