• Tanweer Dar

High Tech, Low Life

People are spending more time behind walls on gadgets than outdoors talking to face to face; robots can walk, talk and carry guns; Elon Musk is talking about putting chips in people's heads (Neuralink), and Virtual Reality is, well, a reality.

Cyberpunk is here. We're living in it.

But before you reach for the glow sticks and start twerking to techno music, let's actually think about what this really means for us all.

The fusion of the biological and the technological has always been at the heart of Cyberpunk fiction, both in print and on screen, along with its consequences. Our dependence on technology, because that is what it has become, a dependence, has serious ramifications.

From tech giants knowing literally everything about us (from how long we spend online to what we eat for breakfast to how many steps we take a day) to our inability to detach from our devices, we may have already crossed lines we never intended to cross. Combined with precarious socio-economic conditions for more and more people, along with governments more interested in making profits and consolidating power than looking after their people, we have the perfect recipe for the archetypal Cyberpunk dystopia.

There is the prospect for a vicious cycle accelerating our slide into this dystopia, too. With all of the problems the planet and people are facing, it would be all too easy to 'escape' to a virtual world. With Zuckerberg launching his Metaverse and the likes of Musk and Bezos selling rides into space to boot, the drive to run away has never been greater.

Like all things, the key to utilising any technology effectively must be balance. There is no question that the age of the Internet, Artificial Intelligence and robotics can provide humanity with myriad advantages. But it is also becoming self-evident that there are just as many pitfalls if we allow them to take over our lives and become reliant on them. Access to limitless information is wonderful, but endless information (especially when much of it is questionable) can be both overwhelming and mind-numbing.

I, for one, hope we can rediscover our connection with nature (of which we are both a part and a result), as well as cherishing and maintaining the joy of human contact and of physicality - from the simple pleasures of walking to the creative grandeurs of making art and music.

High tech, high life is possible. Let's make it happen!

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