To see the impact of technology on humans, look to artists and storytellers

How do we figure out the long term impact and implications of new technology on humans?

With every new technology, there are repercussions down the line that we don’t take into account or can’t imagine at the start. It can take many years before we get a better understanding and in some cases it could be too late or too difficult to recover from. We could rely on the technology creators or those building and applying the technology into products but do they have the vision to see the big picture impact?

Throughout history artists, writers or any type of storyteller, has envisaged the human impact that technology may bring. Sci-fi writers have been prolific imagining a future of AI, space travel, alien contact and alternative universes. But also authors like J G Ballard famous for classic books like Empire in the Sun, High Rise and Crash and Andy Warhol creator of The Factory and leader of the visual pop art movement.

Ballard proposed that in the future ‘Everyone will live in a TV studio’

It seems to have come true with today’s easy access to tools for video capturing, editing and broadcasting — more people than ever have a kind of studio at home (or anywhere).

Warhol asked why people couldn’t be paid if they appeared on the news (‘The Philosophy of Andy Warhol’)

His question predicted a future that came true with the onset of the influencer on social media. The link from being in the news to being paid is firmly in place, though in a more indirect way than Warhol imagined. Both Ballard and Warhol had visions of a future which has come to be true, not told through their art necessarily but through conversations and interviews about their work.

Perhaps when we look to the future of technology and its impact on human behavior, we should be asking the artists and authors of today what they think and maybe less on the creators of the technology who may be too close to their inventions or restricted in their imagination to see what might really happen.

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