M-Theory: Who needs humanity? There’s an app for that . . . Melanie Baker March 20, 2014 Columns, Communitech, Featured, Guest columns, M-Theory It’s all clear to me now. A gift, really. It’s not by accident that our tech is turning us all into replicants. Or sociopaths. Sure, our poor old Paleolithic brains can’t evolve fast enough to properly understand this tech-saturated world we’ve conjured up, but that’s not it. Someone knows what’s going on. There is clearly a master plan. Communicating so much via WhatsApp and Instagram has stripped us of our basic humanity, made us slaves to Poe’s Law, and left us with PlayStation-addicted time bomb teenagers who will obviously all become serial killers one of these days. One might think we all need to be fitted with Social Media Guards. We don’t. This outsourcing of humanity is actually a great idea for several reasons. It’s preparing us for our future. Getting connected and in the know and staying that way these days isn’t exactly a challenge. Over 18% of the planet’s population has a Facebook account. (That’s well over a billion people.) We are constantly being bombarded by crap that our “friends” think is “interesting”. Can you imagine how exhausting it would be to actually care? To even moderately want or be able to pay attention to that deluge? Thank goodness most of us lost the last shreds of our attention spans back when people still complained about things like “information overload”. Thanks to the benevolence of technology, we don’t even have to pay attention to our true loves anymore. As with everything else, there are apps for that. As the Wired piece opined, those apps are warping our psyches, damaging our ability to relate and connect as humans, and dooming us to a Her-esque future where our personal sultry-voiced AIs are the only things that can make us feel. Or some reasonable facsimile. Whatever. As someone raised to have manners and observe social norms, I can honestly say I’m pretty tired of it. I mean, really, who among us hasn’t watched The Walking Dead or Vikings and thought… Damn… Hot and cold running mayhem, and I’d never have to approve another douchey friend request… And that, my friends, is what our technology has been kindly and quietly doing for us. Secretly and subtly transforming us. Making us ready. For when it all goes pear-shaped. Because you know it will. Societal collapse and ravening hordes of the undead are pretty much inevitable at this point. Throw in global warming and other forms of environmental destruction and soon we’re all going to be as sweaty and wild-eyed as Daryl Dixon facing a zombie horde. But thanks to social media and our app-filled smartphones, we’ll be ready. Daryl might rely on a crossbow in the future, but now? Phablet, baby. Now, we won’t be ready for everything. Not to fight zombies, mind. Or start fires, build shelters, grow veggies, or any of those other useful skills no one will have learned and for which we’ll no longer have apps. But we’ll be prepared not to care, not to focus or linger. To shrug and move on. Oops, little sister just got bitten? Oh well. Best friend fell off a cliff chasing that delicious-looking squirrel? Unfortunate. Too bad we won’t have robots anymore that could keep an eye on things for us and help prevent that sort of thing. However, our violently truncated lifespans will be a blessing. Life will hardly be worth living anyway without access to Twitter or Tassimo. But hey, how much could all these people have really meant to us? We don’t even have proper terms to describe our relationships (everyone’s a “friend”) and we have to rely on software settings to determine how and how much we interact with others. You won’t have to worry about your frenemy co-workers seeing your vacation party photos when there are no longer co-workers or vacations. Why should we stress over how we should feel and act because of this ill-defined socializing? In the end times, things will be simpler. You won’t be distracted from hunting for rodents and canned goods thanks to one too many hours of staring deeply into Tinder and Snapchat. It will be easy to ignore any people you come across since you probably won’t recognize anything larger than a couple hundred pixels as a human face. Now, it will be a hard life. Don’t get me wrong. These very technologies have provided us easy access to more people than anyone has ever had before in the history of humanity. The attention high from receiving a billion YouTube views is pretty potent stuff. Post-apocalypse, not only won’t we have access to our social metrics anymore, but most of those billion viewers will be dead anyway. Creating memes will be a lot more work, with much higher stakes. Find a cat, trap it, take it to your camp, declare something witty, die of infected scratches… But I hear that nuclear fallout makes for gorgeous sunsets. And I’m sure manually compiled Buzzfeed-like lists of which mushrooms won’t kill you are almost as much fun as quizzes to determine which Game of Thrones character you are. So download those apps, drink deeply of online celebrity gossip rags. Forget the joys of comparing latte art while actually having coffee with a friend, or the laughter of a child not captured via Vine. Such sentimentality will only hold you back in our brave new world anyway. M-Theory is a guest column by Melanie Baker, who has a Mennonite background, a career in tech, and enjoys the unlikely ways these things complement each other. She enjoys writing, working with geeks, building communities, baking and creating fanciful beasts out of socks.