2009-2019: How Apple, Google, and friends drove us mad

When a decade ends, it's time to look in the mirror. Do we like what we see? How much should we blame technology?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

It's time, to be honest.

I know it's not popular these days. Look out into the world and you'll see that the merrily mendacious, the grifters with drifting allegiances and the downright fraudulent are doing quite well.

But when a decade teeters to an end, perhaps it's worth somberly pondering who we are and what we've become.

As Silicon Valley has moved at the speed of sound -- making loud noises about its innate world-improvement skills -- do we feel that we've improved as humans?

Has the world become more open and connected, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised? Or have we all become bitterly divided, nauseatingly irritable vessels of barely diluted bile?

It's always fun to start with Zuckerberg. In the rash brashness of his youth, he broke speed limits as well as so many social certainties.

At the beginning of the decade, he insisted he had the inner knowledge. He said he knew people were desperate to shake off the shackles of privacy and bare all to the world.

He was so very right. How we adored exposing ourselves for who we truly are. Or, more often, for who we want others to think we are.

Yet here we are, just nine years later, and Zuckerberg has enjoyed a biblical conversion. "The future is privacy," he claimed in April.

He's always been wise about the future, you see.

This has been a decade in which the full force of technology's futuristic thoughtlessness has been visited upon our crass, lazy souls.

We got so excited about posting our every thought, mood and self-image to Facebook and Instagram that we didn't bother to consider the consequences.

Equally, tech companies got so excited about releasing more and more gadgets, software and liberating libertarian ideas that they didn't stop to consider what the dark-spirited might do with them.

In just a few damnably short years, we've gone from holding our iPhone wrong to wondering whether our iPhone -- and all the clever apps we've adorned it with -- is spying on our every thought and word.

We've gone from the joy of being able to check our email on our phone to being driven loopy because our bosses, co-workers, lovers, hackers, and socio-political adversaries are emailing and texting us 24 hours a day.

We've become hooked on notifications. We'll watch videos on our phones, leaving the volume on at full blast -- who cares about the other people in the restaurant? -- because we need the stimulation.

We need to do something with or on our phones at all times. Yes, Apple might insist it wants us to use them less. Then it creates more and more services that entice us to use them more.

We now talk to our gadgets. We want them to turn our lights on for us because we just can't be bothered to perform such mundane tasks.

We don't stop to wonder what happens when Alexa knows us so well that she'll start dictating, rather than just listening.

We want our gadgets to tell us the weather because looking out of the window is just too trying for our eyes and necks.

And we're actually prepared to believe anything we see online, to the point at which the nonsense peddled by the nefarious on Facebook may have helped swing an election. And how.

Technology has allowed every awful human and view a vast, unedited platform. It's allowed Russia to invade America with remarkable cost-effectiveness.

Meanwhile, Google, Facebook, and friends are constantly feeding us exciting, highly personalized ads. Well, when I say personalized, I fear I mean cluelessly targeted.

We've all mounted the roller coaster. We want it to go faster and faster. And, when we finally feel sick, we haven't got a clue how to get off. We don't even know if there's an exit. Tech companies make sure it's hard to find.

Along the way, tech has made fine contributions. Smartwatches can save lives. Just ask my colleague Jason Perlow. Creations such as Skype and FaceTime have allowed us to see the faces and hear the voices of those who are far away.

Boredom has become a quaint notion when, at all times, we have at least one gadget that can instantly entertain us.

Every morning, we clutch our phones before we clutch our coffee. We check our likes before we get on our bikes. We judge ourselves and our world by staring into a gadget and hoping for good news, yet expecting the worst.

And then there's Twitter. The app that's become the repository of all that is news, all that is not news and all that is fear, loathing and fake has taken its place as the prime medium of, well, everything.

A president tweets and a world instantly quakes. A Kardashian tweets and a world instantly buys.

As the decade turns, Silicon Valley is filled with the sound of remorse. Even Google says its sole purpose in life is to protect your privacy.

Much of that remorse, like much of the online world, is fake.

Vast money has been made. Vast power has been gained.

The only slight problem now is that the rest of the world is beginning to look around and wonder whether that's a good thing. We're wondering whether the last tech-driven decade wasn't some insane trip that's resulted in a world bathing in acid, while a very select few look on, sip champagne and gloat.

In the last ten years, tech has driven us mad.

Mad in the sense of constantly angry, constantly in fear of the next microaggression or macro tweetstorm.

And mad in the sense that our senses are no longer our own. Or, if they are, they're being preyed upon by robots whose feelings are a little chilly. Well, those feelings were programmed by those not blessed with much emotional intelligence.

In the next decade, none of this will matter. We'll all slowly -- or, in the case of the wealthy, quickly -- turn into deeply rational robots, as the (supposed) dream of chips implanted in our heads becomes real.

Our madness will be controlled. Our anger will be embalmed.

We'll become "godlike," says Google's director of engineering Ray Kurzweil.

Who doesn't want to be a rich God?

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