The Digitial Era

The Technical Human Error: An Observation of the Digital Transformation

The time frame in which each Industrial Revolution occurred, represents a time of immense thought and creation. The latest age of production is exceeding all other industrial periods in both efficiency and global expansion. We are in a digital age. An age of seemingly endless possibility, all on the finger tips of our touch screens. Technology taking over the world is a well thought out and written about topic. The amount of information that continues to be collected and stored is vast and expanding, and thus so is the study of the philosophy behind these systems.

New technological advancements have established new fields of thought, considering what consequences technology will have on the individual and global agenda. The consequences of a digitally based society seem surface level comprehensible. The theories that robots are going to take over the world or a system failure will breach all of humanity are not original storylines. A digital catastrophe is a well-known possibility. However, the real consequences of digital failure will remain unknown.

New inventions create new possibilities for error and unforeseen issues. In this first section, technology will be explained through a personal lens, how it has both positive and negative consequences throughout everyday transactions. In the following sections, the history of technology through each Industrial Revolution will be explained,ending with the most recent revolution, the cyber revolution. The remaining argument is to describe the developing philosophical field of phenomenology, which aims to identify human experience and how it has changed due to technology.

Digital Transformation; the Current Industrial Revolution

The First Industrial Revolution.
This is an image representing the Industrial Revolution in Europe. The introduction of factories established mass production of materials. Credit:

The digital transformation is known as the fourth Industrial Revolution. The first technological revolution was the financial and agricultural revolution (1600-1740). This agricultural revolution is termed a technological revolution because innovations were created to increase production and decrease labor. These were significant changes because they altered the way crops had been grown for most of human history. A four crop rotation system was created to improve soil fertility and crop production. Processes of labor became mechanized due to the discovery of coal and the mass extraction of it. These new increases in labor and land productivity pushed modern life into a new area, the Industrial revolution.

The Agricultural Revolution.
The Agricultural Revolution is considered the first Industrial Revolution. Farmers began to create tools and use machinery to increase crop production and decrease human labor. Credit:

The Industrial Revolution is one of the most important eras of the modern world. The transition was powered by new production methods using machines and requiring factories. The invention of the engine using gas, electricity, and oil powered the expanding market. The creation of the telegraph and later the telephone first developed communication technology.  Production, power, and resource use increased and accelerated the United States into the next revolution: technology.  Between the late 19th century and early 20th century, this technological period advanced the production of large scale systems such as electronics and telecommunications.

The Third Industrial Revolution
The Third Industrial Revolution was the beginning of the digital era. This picture represents the new machinery that was developed through new technology. Credit:

New technological systems such as electrical power, telephones, and computers were invented. This new understanding of electrical energy sparked the most sophisticated technological revolution, the digital revolution. The digital revolution is the shift from mechanical electronic technology to digital electronics. The historical time between the technical and digital ages has the smallest gap between any other revolutions and is the most complex revolution. The new communication technologies store and distribute high amounts of information digitally. The introduction of cloud computing marks the era of digital technology, establishing universal access to vast amounts of information and the capacity to process it for new uses.

A Brief Overview of Cloud Computing

A Digital Representation of Cloud Computing
This is a digital representation of a computing cloud. Information is stored and accessed through a data storage system. Credit:

A large population of modern society has used some version of cloud computing. Anyone with an iphone or Apple device has utilized cloud computing.  An Apple device has a built-in icloud; pictures, files, data are saved and available in storage space. This form of information technology enables access to shared centers for system resources and is a storage device for online information.

Cloud computing allows for convenient and on-demand network access to a variety of computing resources, such as servers, storage, and access to applications. It is a ” distribution architecture” with the main objective to be a convenient data storaging  network of information and a computing service that is delivered over the internet. Because cloud computing uses remote servers on the internet rather than a personal server, important data that was previously stored on a user’s own computer server and protected by their own security measures is now in the cloud.

Cloud computing; the Good and the Bad

Cloud computing is a relatively new computing model and there is a great deal of uncertainty about securing every part of the system. Because the cloud has so many features on such a large scale, the vast distribution network has  proven to be a less than fully secure system for containing information.The internet itself has no centralized government to establish norms of conduct, moral conduct, and enforce criminal laws. The invention of the Google cloud has allowed hackers easier access to information about governments, corporations, and individuals.

These engines are often times not detected because of the security each site has. Because these engines are heavily secured, they can facilitate the concealment of criminal actions and networking. Cloud computing uses remote servers on the internet to store, manage, and process data rather than a personal server or computer. Important data that was previously stored on a server and protected by firewalls is now in the cloud. This form of information technology enables access to shared centers for system resources and therefore a communal  storage device for online information.

Corporate Cloud Complications

Cloud computing has led to increased hacking of big corporations because there is a large amount of information in the cloud that can be accessed more easily than individual servers.The scale and openness the cloud has makes a very strong and powerful information forum, but also vulnerable. Bigger companies are not always able to implement enough security for all the mobile technology in their departments. Security also becomes a problem because most employees have their own computers or other devices that are all connected to the same cloud, making viruses and problems in the system more common.

Crime is Becoming High-Tech 

Companies and governments are taking advantage of information technology, but they must now spend large sums on protecting their information, in addition to what they spend on protecting physical assets that were the sole subject of criminal threats in the past. For individuals, there has been a substantial increase in identity theft as billions of people have personal information online. Meanwhile, crime through the internet is harder to trace and most commonly the source is not just one criminal who can be caught and sentenced locally, but often crosses international borders and involves criminals operating cooperatively in many different places.

Crime, too, has gone virtual and high-tech. Cloud computing has led to an increase in the hacking of big corporations because there is a large amount of potentially very valuable information in the cloud that can be accessed more easily than individual servers. The same scale and openness of the cloud that makes it useful is also vulnerable. Bigger companies are not always able to implement enough security for all the mobile technology in their departments.

The Problem with Security

Security has also become a problem because most employees have their own computers or other devices that are all connected to the same cloud. That makes viruses and other problems such as unauthorized entry into the system more likely through hacking strategies such as “phishing” emails that lure users into disclosing information that provides criminals with an opening into the system. Most recently, there has been a growing trend toward the “ransomware” attack, in which criminals seize control of a company’s system and demand payment through crypto-currency, where it is difficult if not impossible to trace the recipient.

The Cyber Revolution

AI robots
AI machines are robotic creations designed to make production faster and more efficient. Credit:

The cloud is an incredibly new digital platform, reshaping the modern lifestyle. Information technology has reimagined the relationships between consumers, workers, employers, and individual routines. Theorists studying past revolutions and the current era are concerned with the relationship between scientific progress and technical change. The fourth revolution has been described as having the properties of a general purpose technology. A general purpose technology has the power to continually transform, progressively expand, and can create nearly limitless productivity.

The internet world has already confirmed the possibility of billions of people being connected through mobile devices; and knowledge is now seemingly unlimited. This next revolution has emerged quickly with a strong and powerful force.  Artificial intelligence, including robots, drones, and self-driving cars is breaking through barriers that were previously unknown as possibilities. Like every revolution, this fourth cycle has the potential to improve the quality of life for populations globally. The advancement of tools has historically and universally been to make the human way of life easier and therefore better.

The Growing Inequality in Technology

The sad truth to each revolution, however, is that gains in quality of life are not shared equally and technological innovation actually has the ability to create greater inequality, and can therefore decrease the quality of life. Those who have access to mobile technology easily benefit from it. However, there is a large population that does not have this access and cannot use these benefits. The largest beneficiaries of this revolution are the providers of cyber and physical capital. The higher demand for technology also increased demand for the most highly skilled workers and thus the job market and worker income tilts even more to their advantage.

The digital revolution is the only Industrial Revolution that has not been, technically, industrial. Digital advancements no longer rely on the use of manufacturing goods, but use data to produce digital “goods”. This era has not expanded cities on the physical level, but has created more connecting network systems than any previous revolution. The industrial economies were finite, raw materials were being extracted, processed, and sold. The consumer market has expanded with digital access to all types of entertainment, communication, and information markets. The digital economy, like the entire system, is very new and does not have a solid foundation. With a new economy that is digital, less is known about the protection of consumers and the market.

The Philosophical Indications of Modern Technology

AI robotic workers
This image depicts AI workers in positions that human workers used to be. Credit:

We are already living in a classically described futuristic world, a technology-based modernity where artificial life coexists with natural life. The reduction of human beings through technological replacement is a hallmark of our current civilization. Artificial intelligence engines are being used for production purposes, reducing “man” power. Instant access to the internet is on billions of peoples fingertips. And our exploration into the technical universe has only just begun.

The explosion of technology has created a cyber-based reality where information is used, stored, and stolen. These incredible technological advancements have, however, come with a cost, and are warned by many to be cautious of. Philosophers in the past century have created new disciplines to understand how changing technology impacts the human experience. The study of technology and its existing consequences was first introduced in the first half of the 20th century. The development of this discipline reiterates the importance of consciousness in all aspects of life, and the importance of intent in technological advancement.

The Second Wave of Existentialism

The philosophy of modern technology is based on humans existing in a society determined by technology.  Gunther Anders, a German philosopher developed philosophical anthropology in the age of science and war. The context in which Andres was writing is very important in the overall argument against technology and its needed precautions. Andres was writing from the WWII perspective of a German-Jew, witnessing the consequences of Auschwitz and Hiroshima; two major events that directed his thought.

He witnessed the rise of fascism, expanding from WWI until it resulted in the Holocaust. Although he was in the United States for the Second World War, he meditated on war and the arms race, becoming both a thinker and an anti-war advocate. Referring to the disastrous bomb that fell and destroyed Hiroshima, Andres states that humans live in the threat of a nuclear apocalypse that we have created ourselves. Thus, we are capable of bringing about the end of history, the end of the human race, but we are incapable of imagining it. Cyber hacking, a robotic work force, and wider income gap are all examples of unforeseen consequences that may have been expected but never fully understood.

The Free Thinkers of Modern Existentialism

The free thinkers of the 20th century looked to the Second Industrial Revolution as indicating an extreme entrance to the next industrial revolution. George WH Hegel, a German idealist theorized that the constant and central focus of the destruction of nature and humanity is due to a totalitarian system. Hegel used the regimes of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin to illustrate the abuse of mass technology, where technology is used to create a negative utopia, designed to change the planet.

Technology in WWII was used in an attempt to destroy a naturally occurring evolution and create a false nature for humans. In the next industrial revolution, similar circumstances are being generated. The systematic control of technology may not appear to be totalitarian, because there is no centralized dictator or centralized government. However, the use of the internet is also a mass system of control that alters the normal human state; mass technology has and will continue to undoubtedly change the planet by systemizing and reimagining human connection.

In the published mediation “The Antiquatedness of the Human Being”, Anders warns that the limited capacity of human understanding may cause unforeseen consequences in our technologically based future. Cyber crimes have already been an indicator of universally harmful tactics that can only be established in the current technological system. The economy is additionally a questionable factor in whether this revolution will help advance productivity or ultimately hinder it. Although there is no way to know the fate of technology, the importance of its role in the future of mankind remains consistent and extensive.

The Anthropological Agenda

Like most philosophers studying humans, Andres looks at the perceptive angle of their external perception. He inquired about fantasy, illusion, and the limits of human abilities; that our creations may be more complex than what we can understand. This existential study  became known as phenomenology, the study of the structure of consciousness through the lens of human observation and experience. Ultimately, the most important question that cannot be thoroughly answered, is what happens to the individual? Human nature, as Andres concludes, is fundamentally adaptive. Because this is the case, human behavioral patterns and forms of life are always changing. Although this adaption is a useful skill, the limits of our understanding leave us vulnerable to our creations becoming a cause for our destruction. Digital expansion is moving faster than human comprehension and knowing the human place in a natural world is increasingly crucial to the future. The digital revolution has brought humanity more into the future in many ways, but will continue to create consequences that innately bring humans farther from evolution.

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