Technology overload: have we reached a tipping point?

This recent article in the Economist argues that

Today, automation is having an impact not just on routine work, but on cognitive and even creative tasks as well. A tipping point seems to have been reached, at which AI-based automation threatens to supplant the brain-power of large swathes of middle-income employees.

So have we reached a point when we need to consider Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics? There is plenty to think about, but, to take the example of sociology, I am slightly more optimistic. Yes, machines may have become amazingly adept at data analysis; but is this putting sociologists out of jobs? Not really. Firstly, we often forget that behind the hardware and software there are human brains who create, code, programme, maintain and upgrade them. But more importantly, we humans ultimately drive research agendas and make sense of the findings. As Savage and Burrows (in The Coming Crisis of Empirical Sociology, 2007) sociologists definitely need to rethink what and how they do; but doesn’t this just leave us with more data for our sociological imaginations to play with? It sure does. And I think this applies to all other spheres as well. Even if some of us seriously dream of a world with less technology, it’s too late. We may as well learn how to use it.

Categories: C. Wright Mills

4 replies »

  1. Even if some of us seriously dream of a world with less technology, it’s too late. We may as well learn how to use it.

    I think this reasoning does not fullfill the basics standards of sociological reasoning. As sociologists we assume that a different society is possible. Why not a society with less technology?

  2. I don’t think that comment meets the basic standards of sociological reasoning :p

    Have you read the article on here in light of the Economist article linked above?

  3. Of course as sociologists we can imagine alternative world, as well as try to understand why the world that is, is the way it is. And in the meanwhile, I was just being practical: we can well imagine alternative world, but this doesn’t mean that when you wake up tomorrow morning, your colleagues won’t be using SPSS. They will. What do you do?

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