Tuesday, January 17, 2012

This house believes that we have become slaves to technology - opening speeches

First proposing speech
Dear judges, fellow debaters and opposition, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for reading us today. Here I stand in front of my laptop typing a speech about this laptop, about laptops, about technology. What is technology? It is the specific use of science in our everyday life to help us and supply some of our needs, but not always our natural needs. Technology has spread everywhere, in our modern Western world. We cannot do much about it and we are trapped in this move. Thus this house believes that we are slaves to technology. In this case, slavery is considered as a clear dependence on something and there are no easy ways to get rid of it. We have to go through modernization and use technology, today’s technology. It is not a trend that will vanish in the next century. The evolution of technology in this context is a point that will be developed later. […]

by ALe

First opposing speech
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for taking time to read this first opposing speech to the presented motion. We are strongly opposed to the absurd fact that we have become slaves to technology. The subject is composed of three important words: we, slaves and technology. [...]

by A.E

First proposing speech
Dear judges, fellow debaters and opposition, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for reading us today. Here I stand in front of my laptop typing a speech about this laptop, about laptops, about technology. What is technology? It is the specific use of science in our everyday life to help us and supply some of our needs, but not always our natural needs. Technology has spread everywhere, in our modern Western world. We cannot do much about it and we are trapped in this move. Thus this house believes that we are slaves to technology. In this case, slavery is considered as a clear dependence on something and there are no easy ways to get rid of it. We have to go through modernization and use technology, today’s technology. It is not a trend that will vanish in the next century. The evolution of technology in this context is a point that will be developed later.

Please note that we are not arguing about whether or not it is good or bad, right or wrong. It is a debate in which I would be glad to participate at another moment.  This house defends a fact : we are slaves to technology. Some key ideas favor this motion ; my fellow partner and second speaker will detail them with further arguments. But first, let me introduce them.

A fundamental pattern appeared in our History : a quest for time, a real rush. We are looking for more time. Faster. Quicker. For example farmers began to use fallow in order to grow crops during the whole year. In communication, the flow of information gradually evolved, it started by simple oral messages, then written text which was followed by telegraphic messages and finally our ordinary SMS and emails. Someday we might use telepathy … who knows ? We are witnesses of this situation, the power of technology. Cell phones give a nice overview of the West: the number of cell phones working exceed the population number in some countries (Wikipedia). The point is that almost everybody uses a cell phone.

Moreover, an exhaustive list (computers, cars, elevators, weapons, and so many instruments … ) could easily picture the role of technology in our lives and how it fuels the system. The article from the Financial Times written by Stefan Stern brings an original point of view, which tackles the issue of our motion : to what extent are we slaves to technology ? He explains that we have the feeling that we are receiving text messages all day long, we expect to receive some SMS or emails. New habits in our social behavior appeared with the rise of technology, which came up to be unconscious constraints. We are definitely slaves to technology.

In addition, one might argue that technology can free ourselves. It is not true when we consider the whole pattern in the evolution of technology and technologies. Actually, we are responsible of the technology we created and that we are using. Although one technology might solve a problem, it generates new problems and issues to focus on, a point which AL will highlight. Therefore, we are slaves to technology.

Thank you for reading these lines which concern you all and vote for us. 

ALe
 

First opposing speech
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for taking time to read this first opposing speech to the presented motion. We are strongly opposed to the absurd fact that we have become slaves to technology. The subject is composed of three important words: we, slaves and technology.

By “we”, we mean people who are in contact with technology. Concerning the word “Technology”, it can be defined as a body of knowledge used to create tools, develop skills, and extract or collect materials; in other words, it is the application of scientific advance to benefit humanity. In this debate we chose to emphasize three of the various fields of technology: communication and entertainment, transport and medicine. As for “slaves”, we find it is the key word of the motion, and throughout the three opposing speeches, we are going to expose the arguments that show that the house’s proposal is a complete fallacy and that the word slave is totally misused.

Let’s define the word “slave”. It is a person who is treated as a property forced to work. Slaves are held against their will and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work or to demand compensation. They have no freedom of action. But most of all, they haven’t chosen to be slaves.

Let’s now say what a slave is not: it’s not someone who chooses the work he does, not someone who can decide when to start or stop. It’s not someone who can shut down his master. But most of all, his master isn’t created by him!

We won’t deny that we live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology. The Internet for example has replaced newspapers, encyclopaedias, stereos, TV, board games, telephones, even writing letters or shopping. If one did all those activities separate from each other during the same day, it would be considered as a nice and productive one. But since one does them all in front of the screen of his laptop, he would be considered as a slave. Who thinks that? People who are scared, people whose minds are too drown in science-fiction books and who spend their time criticizing the Internet…on electronic blogs!

Maybe some of us use technology more than others. In fact, there are various stages of use in any technology. Novice, intermediate, hobbyist, obsessive, addict. Whoever thinks that addict and slave are synonymous should be remembered that addiction is seeking pleasure, enjoyment or relief from an activity, at least at first, which makes it completely different from slavery.

But even if we rephrase the motion using addicts instead of slaves, the fact would be true for less than 10% of technology users. We also should replace “have become” by have chosen to be. In other words, 2 out of 3 of the motion's key words are to be replaced. A simpler solution is to deny the motion.

Actually, we had better consider slavery to our current civilization and not to technology which is just one of the many aspects of today’s pattern of behavior. We are caught up in a routine of following societies and life dictates. If we are slaves, it is because we ourselves have placed the shackles on our own wrists; the shackles of following the mainstream and being satisfied with our ignorance while as in Plato’s cave, technology is the light that helps us get rid of them.

I will conclude by saying that the manifestation of technology as our enslaver is only an illusion. We are the masters of technology, and as such, we should concentrate on ways to seize all the opportunities it gives rather than consider it as the one-eyed monster that will kill us and destroy the world. Let's be adults about this and bless the brilliant minds that invent technologies and improve them day by day. Elbert Hubbard is right when he says that “One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.”

I will let the second opposer show you that there's no reason to be afraid as technology doesn't have the means to enslave us. And it will be up to the third opposer to make you realize that technology has the ability to emancipate and empower people rather than to chain them on purpose. Thank you for reading us and vote for us!

A.E

9 comments:

  1. It is the specific use of science in our every day life to help us and supply some of our needs, but not always our natural needs.

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  2. I'm not really persuaded by either of the speeches. The proposing speech doesn't give any real vision (or concrete example) of our purported enslavement. The motion states "we have become" but I don't see the explanation of when and how technology went from being something presumably benign to something more sinister. And I agree with the opposing speech that dependence is not the same thing as enslavement. A paraplegic is dependent on his wheelchair, but not thereby a slave to it. The following proposing speeches will need to give an account of how, under certain circumstances, dependence can be or become enslavement.

    On the other hand the opposing speech hasn't persuaded me that slavery can't be linked to a certain form of dependence. We are told that slaves don't choose their status. Not only does this forget "la servitude volontaire" of La Bo├ętie, but it is contradicted later on by the claim that "If we are slaves, it is because we ourselves have placed the shackles on our own wrists". The idea that we can become the slave of our own creation is the driving idea of much dystopian literature, and if the contemporary novelist Robert Harris is to be believed, "our dangerous dependence on technology" can be summed up in two words: Moore's Law:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXZsMcCu9zc&feature=BFa&list=UUJbUPqF_AbXwSjpqm76jHuw&lf=plcp

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  3. Dependence is the first step to slavery, the second speech gives deeper evidence of this slavery: the world in which technology is implanted pictures the enslavement of humankind since there is less and less control on technology and the consequences that it can rise. Therefore we have become slaves and not only handicapped people.

    We have come to a point where we are working for computers, for the network; for instance, cloudsourcing galvanizes the spirit of the network. Wouldn't it feel like a Big Brunch for us if it collapses? Moore's law highlights the parallel between our enslavement and how the capacities of computers grew exponentially.

    A simple observation about AE's speech, "his master isn’t created by him!" : you try to justify (idealistically) the fact that a 'creation' cannot 'master' its 'creator'. You cannot state that subordination is linked to somekind of fatherhood : why wouldn't a child master his parents when growing up? it can be the case, it is not impossible.

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    1. "We have come to a point where we are working for computers, for the network; for instance, cloudsourcing galvanizes the spirit of the network." In what way is this an example of men working for computers?
      And yes if the electronic world were to collapse, it would feel like a catastrophy, but at any time in human's history, men relied on a form of technology. Technology makes life easier, and the human mind gets quickly used to it. As a consequence, he can no longer imagine his world without this technology. There are few things that are really indispensible for humans. And those things have always existed. Facebook, i-phones or laser are not one of them. A topical case prooves this. Milions of people have been watching films and series on megaupload. Now that the FBI closed it, have people died or gone mad?
      Concerning the fact that a creation can become your master, you talked about children, but is a child the invention of his parent? A child has what technology has not, he has a mind and a conscience! It’s not to be compared ton technology.

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  4. It wasn't a contradiction since I started by saying that a slave doesn't choose to become one, but if we had clinged to this fact, the motion would have been impossible to discuss since our team and the proposing one would have had different definitions. That's why in a second time, I chose to consider the existence of this voluntary slavery. However, it's to civilisation and not to technology that some of us are obeying.
    As for Moore's law, it just quantifies the greatness of human's progress. It's true that our current world depends more and more on technology, but it has also always depended on oxygen, water, the sun... And as far as I know, there is no debate on whether we are slaves to those things or not.

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    1. I don't think it's a question of definition whether enslavement can be voluntary or not. We must investigate how the concept is actually used. Doing so, I think we find that, although our initial image of the slave may be of someone who is so against his will, the concept of "voluntary servitude" is a coherent and indeed enlightening one. This is implicit, for example, in any call to revolt against one's servitude. The revolutionary calls upon the slave to rise up and throw off his chains. The logic of such a call is that if the slave SHOULD rise up, it's because he CAN. And if he can, not to do so must be his CHOICE.

      An essential concept here is freedom, and its correlate, responsibility. No doubt technology increases efficiency, and so in some sense the possibilities of life. The question is whether this gain comes at the expense of other, more fundamental, freedoms. In the clip I referenced previously, where Robert Harris speaks about the "flash crash" in 2010, when algorithmic share trading caused the biggest single day crash on the New York Stock Exchange, I think the point he is making is that market operators had handed over responsibility for their actions to machines, and that this is one example of a wider trend: The greater convenience modern technology offers may be based on the "de-responsibilisation" of the user (whether voluntary or not).

      The example you give of the shutting down of Megaupload.com is a perfect case in point. The outrage many users feel seems to be founded on their complete inability to conceive that they had been doing anything wrong. Yet in a real physical shop, their ethical conscience would never allow them to pick up and walk off with something simply because it is there. It seems that the simple fact of being on the site has somehow deprived them of the responsibility of reflecting on the ethical dimansion of their actions. This deprivaton could reasonably be called a form of enslavement.

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    2. People who were downloading on Megaupload were not feeling guilty because it was them against a huge industry, and because everybody was doing it. In that case, the only role of technology was to help them being anonymous, and not to deprive them of their responsability.
      The same phenomenom occurs with people not willing to pay taxes and cheating about how much they earn. They don't feel guilty because the State is huge compared to them, and because this behaviour is common, and still technology is not helping them.

      The human kind did not wait for technology to become irresponsible.

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  5. In my oppinion, when technology allows you to be anonymous, people will not know that you are responsible for things you did (on Megaupload for example). It is in this way that you feel less responsible. Surely humankind did not wait for technology to become irresponsible, but it helped.

    Addiction to the Internet is interesting. We do not all have a sever problem with this but we are all concerned about it, with our regular use of the Internet, this phenomenon is growing. AE wrote that slavery and addiction are to stay separate. But when you seek for pleasure (in your addiction), you can't be considered free to choose deliberately. Technology brings you something that you like sometimes. Therefore, you loose control because you have in mind this pleasure, and here i let you read AC's speech which sets the main arguments of our motion.

    [when i wrote Big Brunch, i obviously meant Big Crunch ;)]

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  6. The Internet makes it more complicated for other people to know you did something, but once they know you downloaded something illegaly, your responsability is clear. Either way, you won't feel responsible any different. I think you play on both senses of the word "responsible" :
    - doing something (fact)
    - moral responsability

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