Fearing new technologies, the philosophical view by Brian Manning

Person holding a tablet

Since time imemorium the default position of people has invariably been suspicious of advancing technologies.

In the days of the Greeks, Plato feared the proliferation of handwriting. He argued it would diminish our ability to memorize and process information and take from the Homeric-like oral tradition.

But for blind people and people who have low vision, I would argue that developing technologies have for the most part been positive and almost liberational in leading to growing levels of inclusion and independent living.

Take for example the creation of the printed press in the fourteen hundred. One of the first and most valuable skill sets I have ever learned as a blind person was typing as a child. Now I hasten to add that I learned to type in the late twentieth century not the fourteen forties.

Again, I would point to the development of email and other mass communication systems as being significant in leading to increasing levels of participation in education, the workplace, and wider society for all of us.

The proliferation of the World Wide Web has been a great instrument for positive change and almost liberational for people with sight loss and now enables me personally to lead a very full and informed life.

The main reason I am brought to this subject today is the widespread fear and reticence around ongoing enhancements of artificial intelligence.

Of course, like all societal advancements, it has the potential for harm particularly in the wrong or sinister hands. But as a fully functioning blind adult, AI also has a huge potential for much good.

I can already point to some very progressive developments such as Be My AI inside the Be My Eyes app and the Seeing AI app from Microsoft.

Again, look at the great possibility AI brings to the table when researching various eye conditions such as RP and Glaucoma.

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