What is sustainable digital life?

We constantly strive to develop digital methods and strategies to enhance the quality of life and technological development takes place at a very fast pace in the modern world. How can people keep up with the development at a similar speed?

Sustainable digital life is gaining huge importance as technological singularity is becoming reality and it is vital to adapt the changes as mammals have done for millions of years. The emergence of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and blockchain, and especially their convergence, will be the driving force of radical change. New policies and measures may be needed to steer this change into a direction that benefits humans as well.

A sustainable digital life should facilitate our normal everyday life while keeping our core human values. It is an undeniable fact that digital life makes communication, transportation, healthcare easier and faster, but can it actually slow down our brain performance and development? What if digital life makes us addicted to its ease and speed and as a result weakens our brain’s own natural performance?

What if a person’s natural self-confidence weakens due to the pressure produced by social media? Is it easier to bully people anonymously on social media than to share one’s rude opinion about another in real life with their own face and name?

Humans don’t have to spend their precious time mowing the grass when a robot can do it for us. Thanks to artificial intelligence, we also get lightning fast information about ourselves, how well we have slept, how well our body has recovered and how fast the heart has been beating during the previous night. Does human patience suffer from the ease and speed brought by artificial intelligence? Can we wait patiently in the slow-moving checkout line anymore without getting frustrated and feeling like things should somehow be done faster just because we are accustomed to it?

How can we design ethically, socially and environmentally sustainable AI and social media services not only for the highly-developed Western world but also low and middle-income countries in an ecological and accessible way?

As with everything, digital life also has many different perspectives on many things. Changes and developments in digital life happen so quickly that not all people can keep up with the changes at the so-called desired pace. That’s when doubts arise and confrontations about the benefits and harms of digital life.

Artificial intelligence has also made many incredible things possible that could not have been imagined hundreds of years ago. With artificial intelligence, we have self-service checkouts in stores, which means less employed human labor. You no longer have to drive cars and buses yourself, when artificial intelligence takes care of that for us. In hospitals, surgeons are supported by robots that do precise work to assist the procedure. At fairs and conferences, a person does not have to stand all day handing out coffee, instead a robot can dispense the coffee to customers.

It is important to emphasize the disadvantages of the elements in question as well. Artificial intelligence is artificially built, which means that its structures can potentially be hacked. This means that if a car that drives 100 km/h using artificial intelligence and gets hacked, the risk of a traffic accident can be much higher than if a person had been at the wheel of the car. Nowadays, we have to rely on the carrying power of artificial intelligence, but we may forget its great risks and disadvantages.

The first thing many people do when they wake up in the morning is look at their phone. People start their day by getting a quick dose of dopamine, which is provided by the information received from the phone. How many likes have come to the photo I published yesterday of a dog on the beach of a cottage, who has commented on my picture, who just saw and continued browsing. And what has happened in the world? Even information that comes from the other side of the globe is so easy to get these days. The brain does not need to use more energy to find information than it does to find the information it wants with a couple of google search words.

Many of us are addicted to dopamine without even realizing it. For some users of social media, their brains may increase dopamine when they engage with Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or other social media platforms. When a user gets a like, a retweet, an emoticon notification, the brain receives a flood of dopamine and sends it along reward pathways. Giving the person a state of euphoria without even noticing, is proof of how well social media, digital life and artificial intelligence can affect our mind. One of the biggest problems of sustainable digital life is how to make it possible for digital life and so-called real life to coexist without one pushing the other away. It is important to stop everything for a second, be present and think critically about the benefits and damages of the digital tools we use. People should be able to break today’s “normal” and return to the basics or tradition.

Being aware of the differences between virtual and real life, understanding what is real and what is virtual have become a must for the young generation. In addition to this, following blindly the digital trend cannot always be the best thing for every person. Digital platforms and tools are simply products for people, and people should demand better products if necessary. For example, the same way customers do not buy useless clothing, they do not have to use the mainstream social media platforms if there is actually no use or benefit from them. Only because everybody is using Instagram, one does not have to spend certain hours in a day. On the other hand, the same arguments apply for social culture. When people are involved in the woke cancel culture, they can also critically think if it does purely good when people socially lynch the various segments of the society on social media on the name of cancel culture and human rights. While making the best use of digital tools, we humans should always remember that we are emotional creatures living in the reality called world.