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Letters: The Borg controlling Richmondites with their phones

Letter writer is concerned about digital addiction.
night cellphone
A Richmond News reader thinks people stare at their phones too much.

Dear Editor,

Everywhere I go in Richmond I see depressing examples of the extent to which so many people have surrendered their autonomy and awareness of the real world to the digital universe and the algorithms that control it.

More evidence that the writers for Star Trek were very prescient in predicting the future when they introduced The Borg (cyborgs who were controlled by an AI “hive mind”) into the program’s storyline back in 1989.

At times it seems that at least 50 per cent or more of the people I see in restaurants, stores and malls, at hockey rinks, and on the streets are totally engaged with their hand-held devices instead of their surroundings and other people.

Young couples and families in restaurants spending their time together working their hand-held devices instead of having actual conversations with each other and enjoying each other’s company. 

A small toddler wandering around loose in a busy store while their mother stares at her device instead of fulfilling her responsibility to watch over and protect her child.

Two mothers and their two children at a playground all sitting and staring at their phones instead of the children actually playing on the swings and slides and the mothers sharing anecdotes with each other.

A father in a coffee shop who never once looks at or says a word to his 3-4 year old son the entire time they are there.

Parents at an ice rink who spend more time staring at their small screens than they do watching their sons or daughters playing in a hockey game - a squandering of precious moments they will never get to experience again.

And a young man whose backpack had to be grabbed to prevent him from blindly stepping out into busy traffic while he thumbed on his phone and remained oblivious to the real world around him.

All such instances effectively illuminate the fact that our digital addictions and the control that we acquiesce to algorithms actually limit or negate our freedoms of choice rather than widen them, actually reduce our interest in and capacity for autonomous thinking as opposed to enhancing them, and seduce many into unjustifiably believing that the programs and apps that they use provide them with individualized identities instead of actually making them members of a digitally controlled, group-think, collective persona.

The Borg may have seemed like science fiction at the time but as AI exerts more and more influence on the digital universe and on our lives, and more and more people surrender their independence to the manipulations and control of algorithms, I am increasingly inclined, whenever I go out-and-about in Richmond, to think that The Borg are no longer fiction and that I can see them everywhere I turn.

Ray Arnold


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