With more tech comes more responsibility

00003XTR_00003_BURST20170408100147-01“Do you think I could be an actor?” I cut a glance at Sam in such a way to ensure that he knows this is a test. It’s a game we play, usually when we’re at the theatre, like we are now. I am old enough to know how much work goes into becoming an actor, how highly skilled they are, but young enough to still think I could do anything, and why not this? I also think people who assume they can do anything are perhaps also the sort who don’t need endless reassurance, but I do. Sam is an actor, so I trust his opinion on this one, and also my fiancé, so I rely on him to always see the potential in me that I hope is really there.

“Well, you’d need to learn to project, for one,” he says, matter-of-factly, “and you’d need to overcome your mannerisms.” I pull back in mock-horror. My mannerisms! Sam proceeds to mime, bending his arms at the elbows and sharply punctuating the air with his hands, in which I find a nuanced sense of both beauty and humour, but not myself. “I do not do that!,” I object, and quickly cover myself: “And even if I did, that would mean I couldn’t be an actor?” I would hate to think my obstacles are things I cannot even see.

“No, you would just have to learn these things about yourself, and then how not to do them.” His response is reasonable, and after all, I am interested in finding out how swaths of people behave, and why. I should at the very least be able to do this for myself. And from what I can see, actors possess all the speaking, performance, communication, empathetic and analytical skills that are becoming increasingly necessary in the age of digital connection and virtual reality.

We have just installed Google Home, and now I can demand the lights go on and off, the temperature go up and down, media begin and end, on a whim like a spoiled child, and without moving a muscle. It’s a funny thing to grow up with a parent who remembers having to walk to the TV to change the channel, and now I don’t even have to hunt through the sofa cushions to find a remote. I think, this will help me learn to project.

Google Home is a smart assistant, but what I really need is a smart coach. There is economic value is outsourcing or automating mundane tasks– the reason why robots are replacing jobs at alarming rates— but what about personal value? The people who are losing jobs to machines do not have better lives because of it. They are being removed from the workplace altogether, so as we become more accepting of robots we have a responsibility to understand how that will effect the world around us.

So I understand that Google Home could quite possibly pick up on my mannerisms too. And when it does, will it use that knowledge just to sell me better things, removing the need for companies other than Google? My hope for technology is that it doesn’t just make my life more convenient, but that it can also help me become a better version of myself. My hope is that technology offers me more opportunities rather than just taking some away.

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