Quite simply, my understanding of engineering mechanics, electronics and technology plateaus at the invention of the light bulb. Anything beyond that seems out of reach. In a world as technologically-driven as ours, it would make sense that ignorance would be reduced and systematically disassembled through the constant breakthroughs, however, it seems that this is not the case. As technology develops, it becomes increasingly inaccessible, but it almost seems as if though engineers, designers and inventors want it to stay that way.
Unveiled in October 2014, a web creation platform that uses artificial intelligence to generate visually appealing, adaptive sites named “The Grid”, has recently invigorated an intensive marketing campaign. The company has been advertising the opportunity for individual consumers and businesses to invest in the future project by pre-ordering a membership with the service and becoming a “founding member”. Consumers are apparently interested, as almost 20,000 memberships have already been purchased.
In the informational video posted on the site, the team revels in the complexity of their platform, even selecting backgrounds and effects that would feel just as comfortable as outtakes from iRobot. Ultimately, despite this celebration of the cutting edge, they gloss over even the slightest technical details and simply state: “…it’s incredibly complicated, but The Grid figures it out so you don’t have to”.
We may be able to access more information than ever before, but it seems as if the framing of the system that holds this collected data together is becoming increasingly opaque. As more and more impossible algorithms, artificial intelligence and advanced coding decide what we see, when we see it and in what form we can access it, we are asked to simply trust veiled systems of sorting and measuring, which have the power to dictate our virtual lives.
Technology is no longer a voyeuristic deluge for teens and techies, it is the systematic basis on which our economy and public services are operated. It represents the nation’s collective storage of private and public information: is this not enough to warrant technological visibility?
It only takes a single scroll through a virtual message board to discern who is technologically inclined and who is technologically challenged. The age gap between baby boomers and Generation Y does not account for the gap of technological knowledge as wide as that which we are facing. This is not ignorance or a lack of willingness to attempt the “learning curve” of code and programming, it is in fact a structured culture of technosis.
Whether the assumptions made by The Grid are correct or incorrect and whether the technical jargon flies too far over our heads or comes through in plain syntax is frankly, irrelevant. Secrecy and a refusal to disclose information that directly affects our virtual health and stability is unacceptable.
Apple products and consumers flood the market: the technology advances, the interface becomes increasingly simple and ultimately, a barrier of ignorance grows between the programmer and the user. In order to dismantle that barrier, all it takes it to simply repress the assumption that “we simply won’t understand”.