Home Personal Psychology Cognitive The Psychology of Technology Embedment in Humans: Opportunities, Threats and Preventative Measures

The Psychology of Technology Embedment in Humans: Opportunities, Threats and Preventative Measures

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As our colleague, John Krubski, has noted, the human brain is much more complex and refined than any computer that now exists (or probably will exist in the near future). However, there is still some domains where we would like some assistance from our technologies. And this assistance could end up capturing some of the work for which we might not want assistance—such as our sense of self and our capacity to reason, reflect and make decisions. If some technology is telling us what ingredients appeal to our taste buds and what food contains these ingredients, then we don’t really have to become discerning in our purchases at the supermarket (or in ordering food on-line). One little bit of consciousness might be lost when our choice of food is mediated by a machine.

This notion about lost consciousness is closely related to the other three challenges mentioned herein. If we are overwhelmed with information, if our boundaries between private and public are invaded and if we are having a hard time discriminating between reality and fantasy (often preferring the latter), then we might be losing our sense of self and abandoning the hard work of making choices and reflecting on our own actions. We might be losing our unique consciousness (individual or collective). What are the psychological implications of this loss?

Technological Propinquity as a Dimension of Psychology

These multiple challenges are all interesting and perhaps something to write about. We can serve as Paul Reveres racing through the streets declaring that “technological propinquity is coming.” We are likely to be ignored or folks will be curious. They will ask: what in the world are we talking about? Most importantly, there might not be any work open to these Paul Reveres—especially if technological propinquity, human-embedded technology, advanced human factors and saturated selves are not in the human vocabulary and if there is no domain of professional psychology devoted to these matters.

I would suggest that there is work available for these revolutionary riders. With knowledge about the kind of challenges addressed in this preliminary proposal, one might, as a psychologist, work with high tech firms: how do we help prepare people to deal with the new propinquity and where do we want to set the boundaries with regard to the human/machine interface? We might also find employment (or at least a consulting contract) in working with health-based institutions regarding how they help their patients and clients handle the information they have received. This is where a cutting-edge alliance between psychology and behavioral economics will yield inter-disciplinary expertise regarding the cognitive and emotional implications of human-embedded technologies.

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