If you are a developer, you are most likely familiar with the term “side effects”.
In computer science, we can say that a function has a side effect if it modifies some state outside its scope, for example, the state of a global or a static variable. Those changes in the state of the variables might lead your software to unpredictable states and eventually crash or stop working. Amongst others, functional programming is a paradigm that tries to minimize those side effects by modeling our programs as functions that take an input and return an output without accessing any state outside the scope of the function.
Admittedly, technology also has some side effects. We can think of technology as functions where the input is the new thing that is being introduced in the society, the output what it’s expected to solve, and the side effects the real impact that it has in the society. If we look around, we find a lot of good examples where functions are not pretty pure. They end up having more side effects than output, and some of those side effects might not be very beneficial for the society.
A good example that I keep thinking about these days is social networks.
They were intended to be the “new”
way to connect people using the technology. Companies tried to define what connection means to them. For example, a connection at Facebook
means states updates, photos, messages, and recent stories. At Twitter
, a connection is just short and concise states, although recently they are experimenting with new formats that help them be sustainable as a company.
Although some connections have something positive if they are used properly, they come with a very deep impact on how people interact. These days, new generations prefer to spend the majority of their time staring at their screens, scrolling up and down to stay up to date with their friends’ lives. Social networks are adding more and more features up to their platforms to make us more dependent on them. Those dependencies are feeding people’s insecurity, envy and making them more introvert when they don’t have a screen in front of them.
Do they know about the side effects? Of course, they know, but remember, their ultimate goal is to make business. They seem to care about us, but in reality, we are their channel to be a profitable and a sustainable company. If we are becoming more naive because of the amount of cheap and easy-to-process content that we swallow, is not their business.