I’m really starting to loathe technology.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve gotten into battles with multiple devices and technologies: my non-“smart” TV, my Instagram accounts, this WordPress blog, and now – the latest – the most recent tech tool that both is – and has gone, it seems – viral: ChatGPT.

There’s nothing wrong with my non-smart TV. Yes, it’s been on the wall since about 2013. And yes, the remote no longer works to turn it on / off or to adjust the volume. No, it’s not a battery problem. But the picture is fine. The TV turns on and off. The volume works manually. It still connects to my AppleTV box and remote, though those remotes are on the fritz, too. I can’t access the full menu of Netflix on it – no clue why. I suppose the technology doesn’t “support” the latest version of Netflix. But good lord – why must I replace a device that STILL IS FUNCTIONAL simply because someone decided that their company needed to raise its profits and thus we should all buy NEW TVs rather than them retrofitting the new applications to work with the older models?

Does no one care that “things” should be ruled by us, not the other way around? That the warnings of the environmentalists for decades is terrifyingly becoming reality with each passing month? Do they not realize recycling isn’t even the thing we keep telling ourselves it is so we can function during each day?

The pace at which things break / become outdated is – I’m going to say it – just gross. It’s gross environmental negligence. Gross consumerism. Gross quest for never-high-enough profit margins in a capitalistic system that sees no sufficient point at which a corporate lord or company or board will be inclined to say, “Why yes, I believe we’ve won this game of capitalism. We’ve got more money than we could ever spend – unless of course, we need a newer, larger, private island, and who really needs that in a world where we all co-exist on the same planet drinking the same water and eating the same veggies? So, yes, I believe we can say we’ve won this game. And thus, from here on out, all our profits and monies will go back into the system to help other players meet their needs and elevate their quality of life.”

My issues with the other devices in my life are, well, just maddening. But I’m not going to go there. Because the latest, greatest, technological advance is really the one that has terrified me to my core, and it’s not because I’m stuck on giving students loads of traditional writing assignments. Rather, I work to provide endeavors that allow them to sit with their ideas and minds and do the slow, challenging work of trying to articulate precisely what they’re thinking and why, and then, to discover what they’re thinking by writing themselves an identity through the element of surprise in thinking that happens when we write.

Yet now, these students of ours have the ability to request a program to create responses that suit their writing demands. Why think, anyway, when one can just request, copy, paste, submit, and move back to navel gazing and doom scrolling?

If we’re demanding students write traditional pieces that serve only as “practice for college writing and the writing in the ‘real’ world,” then I’d say we deserve this. It’s really just one step beyond them hiring invisible people online to write for them, anyway. We shouldn’t be surprised.

What is actually horrifying? It has the capacity – is generating the capacity – to write creative, complex works. My colleague asked it today to write a play featuring the characters of Nick Carraway (The Great Gatsby) and John Proctor (The Crucible) to be in conversation with each other over the fallibility of man. And it did. In less than 5 seconds. It wasn’t great, but when prompted to include specific textual references, it did. Then he asked it to write a lesson plan helping high school students work on the concept of theme.

And it did. In seconds. And it was pretty good.

We’re in pretty deep here. And I’m not even talking about how many folks are foretelling this AI technology to bring on the end of the work of educators and many others.

I’m thinking about the end of civilization as we know it, and it does in fact all tie back to the issue I have with that greedy TV manufacturer.

If AI can both create and respond to – potentially – any educational prompt, how will we articulate what it means to be learned? understand the importance of learning? Of cultivating our brains? Of honing critical thought? Of generating individual, creative thinking to problem-solve? to experience new things? to find joy in discovery? to expand our capacity to make connections between ourselves, the world, experience, and each other? to know love of self and to feel competent in our capacity which then inspires us to be in community with others?

How will we decide the qualities that mark growth? How will we extend value to the individual mind and capacity? And if we can’t, will only prior wealth and status matter for survival? We can see already that a capitalist system creates a great divide in access and capacity, and thus wealth and status; what will our system look like if no one really has the ability to change their socioeconomic strata via an education because that pathway is no longer? Will there be a new pathway? And if so, what will it be?

I’m all for an Age of Aquarius type of social transformation, but I’m pretty sure the billionaires are not going to come off of their islands to be one with the plebs.

Sadly, with the near-conclusion of a current unit on dystopias and dystopian literature in my senior class, my brain is centering negative outcomes over positive ones: a divide that is, in fact, a chasm. Extreme and expansive poverty. Hoarding and degradation of environmental resources. Monitoring systems for thought, movement, opportunity.

If you build it, they will come.

And the restraints always come too little, too late.

So yes, again right now, I loathe technology, even as I use it to articulate my thinking and reach out to you to invite you to articulate yours.

Usually I can use writing as a way of moving through my thinking toward light and optimism.

Today I am feeling as useful as my old TV.