Viva la vida - Issue #3

This week's issue is a reflection on the impact that some technologies have in the society. I establi

Viva la vida

August 14 - Issue #3 - View online
A theme-free newsletter where I shape all my thoughts every Sunday. You can expect it to be techie, but I might surprise you with non-techie topics such as life or how to recover from a workout drinking beer.

This week’s issue is a reflection on the impact that some technologies have in the society. I establish an analogy between software development and the release of new technologies.

The technology "side effects"
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. 
Why are there side effects?
It’s not only about technology, yet how you use it
And here’s where the uncertainty is. You can release a technology that is intended to be used in particular way X; however, people use it like Y. It’s tough to know this in advance. You just introduce technology in a very complex system (the society), and your technology might acquire an entirely different meaning. You can see it as a baby growing and learning from the system where it lives in. 
The ultimate goal of the companies behind those technologies is to make money. When being profitable is your end goal what cares you the most is not the impact your technology can have on the humanity. Human values should reflect on technology because technology is intended to solve problems that we have and make this world a better place to live in. However, most of the companies don’t care. They end up believing they are making this world a better place, but a world that is in a bubble that they created, and where human values are not a critical piece of the equation.
 This so developed world where technology is almost everywhere scares me a lot. Tobacco is nothing compared to our addiction to those technologies, the ones that don’t know how important human values are. VR sounds exciting, it might have a very beneficial impact on certain areas, but have you thought about how the world would be if VR were everywhere? Nowadays we are very caught up by technology’s side effects. Just step on the public transport and count how many people are looking down at their phones. How many of them are enjoying the world that is passing around them? 
I challenge you to have an offline day and feel a technology-free day. How does it feel?
I challenge you to have an offline day and feel a technology-free day. How does it feel?

Song of the week
Motopony - Wait for me by Khuzaima Bin Tahir | Free Listening on SoundCloud
Readings that I liked
JavaScript for squares: The incredible rise of TypeScript | InfoWorld
Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? - The Atlantic
JavaScript for People Who Hate JavaScript
Faster, Better, Cheaper—The art of making software
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