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Why Americans need to brush up on their tech talk ASAP

Concepts like artificial intelligence, virtual reality and desensitization once seemed like futuristic figments of our imagination. No more.


Artificial intelligence. Virtual reality. The singularity. Desensitization. 

All of these are tech-related terms you may have thought were confined to futuristic novels and films like "Tron" or "Ready Player One." But we’ve reached a point where these terms are immensely and increasingly relevant to our lives, not far off figments of our imagination. 

I’m sympathetic to people who hear modern-day sentences full of tech jargon and think they sound like utter nonsense. But the future is now, and unless you’re up-to-speed on the tech terms that dominate today’s discourse, you’re likely to be left behind — not just technologically, but socially, politically, and even economically. 

Today, major tech platforms, like social media sites, pump terabytes of news and other content to users with the help of algorithms that rely on artificial intelligence to determine who sees what and why

This kind of passive information-gathering has fed concerns of people becoming desensitized to the deluge of troubling content they scroll through on these platforms. 

Law enforcement agencies even rely on artificial intelligence they claim helps them predict crimes — technologies that have predictably led to reports of high-tech discrimination and racial profiling

At the same time, government entities and industries are beginning to emphasize the role virtual reality can play in our current and future lives. The U.S. military has been working with Microsoft on virtual reality training applications (with mixed results). Health professionals rely on (flawed) artificial intelligence to read biometric data about their patients and make diagnoses. And, of course, companies like Meta have essentially plunged their fortunes into developing (and commercializing) a virtual reality platform, sometimes referred to as the “metaverse.” 

The rapid growth in popularity of this seemingly “smart” technology evokes thoughts of the “singularity” — a tech phenomenon you may have heard about in film. In essence, this is the term for what happens when humans become helplessly reliant on artificial intelligence. With doctors, the military and key industries leaning on AI, we seem to be hurtling toward some version of that.  

The future can seem scary at times, particularly if you’re ignorant about how it works. So next time you hear a news report on social platforms, artificial intelligence or the metaverse, defy your urge to tune out. 

Their influence isn’t going to wane anytime soon.