Cyber Fears

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This week I began analyzing the results from my survey. The aim was to discover the answers to several key questions regarding my research topic about Cyberpunk and Cyber Fears …

  • Are we more accepting of new technology?
  • What kind of fears do we have regarding our current technologies?
  • Do we still have a dystopian view of the future or do we have more positive perceptions?
  • Is there room for the cyberpunk genre to re-emerge in our modern culture?
  • And if so how might it be different?

Originally I was aiming to get around 40 participants, but thanks to Facebook and its mass message capabilities I was able to get 80. This was really exciting because it gave a large range of in depth answers to work with and draw ideas from. Here are some of the trends I noticed…

35% of participants stated they had a negative perception of the future in that they think we are headed towards disaster rather than utopia. This actually contradicts what I had hypothesized. I thought for sure there would be a positive trend in perceptions but the survey showed that the majority had a bleak, dystopic view, reminiscent of classic cyberpunk.

nirvana1

But then when asked what their perception of cyber technologies was, 50% said helpful and 24% said extremely helpful. Only 6% said they thought cyber technology was dangerous showing a vast drift towards positive perceptions and suggesting a greater acceptance of technological advancement.

When asked their level of fear over technological advancement 50% said not very frightened and 11% said not frightened at all. Only 3% said very frightened again showing a greater acceptance of technology and a low level of cyber related fear.

However,  there were still areas of cyber culture that generated anxiety within the respondents; predominantly in the field of Artificial Intelligence. When asked if there were any current or near future technologies they were particularly worried the most common answer was Artificial Intelligence. Answers Ranged from AI’s killing or enslaving us, to unemployment from AI’s flooding the job market, to the ethics of playing god.

matrix1

Others were concerned about their online privacy, online security, drone spying, governments control through wearable technology and social media dependency.  The three issues most concerned about were Cyber Terrorism, Online Privacy and Cyber Security.  From this I have gathered fear is still prevalent when it comes to our perceptions of new technologies and there is growing concern over several key issues.

Due to a lot of mentioning of films in people answers though I have begun to re-shape my thinking in that perhaps it is not people’s fears that shape cyberpunk films but rather films that shape peoples cyber fears.

Johnny-Box

 

 

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20 thoughts on “Cyber Fears

  1. Were you able to determine the age range in the survey at all? I find that the age of participants may have yielded different results. Its a bit of cliche to say that older people are more unfamiliar with technology so are more frightened of it but it the adage might stand true. Also the younger generation the ones currently being born into this more technological world might be more accepting of having things such as AI as they don’t have the fears of security that we might or the understanding of ethical dilemmas yet . Other than that its very interesting to find that we are quite fearful of what we find helpful.

  2. Hey there, really interesting findings! I think the three main issues of concern reflect fears not only of new technologies but also those who have the power to wield them (e.g. governments, corporations etc), which would also derive from cyberpunk narratives. It would be great to see your findings supported by research on the impact cyberpunk has on shaping perceptions. For example, this article from Wired discusses the impact these fearful perceptions can have on real life technological advancements: http://www.wired.com/2014/08/stop-writing-dystopian-sci-fiits-making-us-all-fear-technology/. It also includes a link to a 2007 survey about perceptions of AI, which you could compare with your own findings.

  3. I think you’ve done an extremely affective first hand investigation and the results from this primary research open a really interesting can of worms. The idea that people are getting their negative connections to cyberpunk and cyber fears. I think you have an interesting conclusion about how films shape the way we think about technology. The questions you have asked in your survey certainly support this due to nowhere within it did you mention film, but the responses are all plots in films that have some cyberculture connection. In terms of AI and social media being in the list of fears, this video I believe would change peoples perception of technological advancement (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1syj_2jfJ4g) it has a slightly more positive message and perhaps these kinds of pitches for AI would see different results to your surveys participants? A well documented investigation and and interesting read!

    • Thanks for the link, its really interesting to think that people could quite possibly be basing their understandings of cyber technologies on fictional stories. Perhaps more exposure to positive messages would elicit more positive responses.

  4. I find it interesting that 35% of your participants had a negative perception about the future, but when asked about cyber technology 74% said that it was helpful or extremely helpful! As bradleyajones commented, it would be interesting to see what the age range was for this survey, how each age group responded to each of your questions. I would also have to agree with you on your last statement that films shape people’s cyber fears. Hollywood has so much power over how they want or think they want us to perceive things/concepts. I do think that these films take cyber fear from past literatures and blow it up times ten. They make the fear more realistic and close to home. I guess as I’m writing this, I change my stance. I think it’s more like 70/30. 70 being films shaping fear, 30 being people’s fear. By watching these films that show our fears, we create or deepen our preexisting cyber fears. But it’s also kind of like a chicken vs egg cycle. We create these cyber fears from watching films, which makes us worry about the future. But Hollywood feeds off of these preexisting fears to create/ignite film ideas.

  5. I think you could be right in thinking that people perceptions of an apparent inevitable path towards a dypostia due to cyber punk movies. It is funny how your survey results showed majority feared it but then contradicted themselves in saying it was positive, being more positive and not very frightened. There is always the chance of something new (technological or not- but these days probably technological) or anything getting into the wrong hands. Looking into sentience myself I am yet (soon!) to do plenty of research into security and privacy factors. Security and privacy will always be a huge factor. I am also looking at state censorship for another subject, which can tie into this idea. It got me thinking into factors such as localised factors that could affect my digital artefact (I thought of that literally just then from reading your post!).

    This survey has definitely helped me think about my idea as well, thank you for sharing your results!

    • Glad to be of service. I think maybe the discrepancy between peoples positive perception of technology and fear of it has a little something to do with convenience. People are concerned about the technology but not enough to outweigh the benefits of using it. You might find this when you research privacy, it is surprising how much people are willing to give, just to continue to be able to use new medias.

  6. Cyberpunk definitely portrays societal fears in relation to cyberculture. I would argue that originally, Cyberpunk was an attempt to extrapolate or extend emerging technologies into possible future worlds. This in turn created the concerns you have discovered through your survey, and it is these fears we see recycled and updated in newer films, creating a type of feedback loop. In my research I have came across Design Fiction which I feel is a result of understanding that Cyberpunk, as a way of exploring technologies creates fear. Design Fiction is a newer, more conversational and serious way at exploring future technologies, without creating fear. This might be of interest to your research in seeing where the genre has moved too, why it has stopped, and so on.

    • thanks 🙂 I never heard of design fiction before. It is fascinating to think that our first attempts of exploring emerging tech, was so wound up in pessimism and fear, its good to know there a newer more positive explorations.

  7. I definitely believe that people’s negative perceptions of the future have a lot to do with the media’s portrayal of the future whereby majority of films show a dystopic outcome. From films such as Bladerunner to kid’s movies like Wall-E, these films show a lot of technological advancement but also reliance which has led to a degradation in the quality of human life. I honestly can’t think of a movie with a Utopic ending!

    In relation to the respondent’s answers, I think that for many, cybercrimes are the most prevalent fear due to it having the ability to effect anyone and everyone. Everyone has some kind of device, has an account of some form online and security and privacy breaches, identity and monetary theft and loss of data can happen to everyone at any time and can be done by anyone anywhere in the world.

    Conducting a survey was a great idea in ascertaining the thoughts of the general public and it proved to add a lot of worth and interesting insight.

    • That’s a good point, I wonder why there are so few utopian movies, are we so pessimistic that that’s all our imagination can muster or is it just because stories are boring without danger and conflict? Perhaps it is the parameters of a good story structure that is in turn shaping our perceptions of cyber technologies.

  8. Undertaking your own research was such a great idea. This research in particular really resonates with my own studies of Cyberpunk and Lovecraft, so this is actually very useful for me! I need to pin down what exactly makes us afraid of technology so that I can capitalize on it in a horror setting.

    It’s really interesting that you concluded that it’s our media that shape our fears, rather than the other way around. While it could be true that we expect and are afraid of *specific* dystopias due to films, it’s important to remember that cyber fears existed before a lot of our cyber content did. George Orwell’s 1984 was published in 1949, before cyberpunk really took off – and though it isn’t exactly a cyberpunk work in and of itself, it does explore many of the cyber fears that come into play in our media now, like surveillance and thought control. Perhaps instead of thinking of this problem as a “the chicken or the egg” dilemma, you should think of them (our cyber fears and our media that involve them, that is) as evolving side by side as a reaction to the technologies that expand the way we think of the future.

    • Very true, these fears were here long before the cyberpunk genre emerged so arguably it is fear that shapes the genre., but I think it has sort of created a cycle or at least contributed to it.

      • A cycle is a great way to think about it. Maybe our new technologies even take or avoid certain trajectories during development due to our fears and predictions that are informed by movies.

  9. It’s really cool that you did a survey and got some insight into what people are actually thinking! I think there is this circular loop between cyberpunk films and cyber fear where the films shape peoples fears but peoples fears shape the films too. It’s like the chicken or the egg? Which came first? It’s possible that the sudden rapid developments in technology and the initial fear and hostility associated with that correlates with the origins of the cyberpunk genre which sparked these dystopian visions of the future. Then the emergence of cyberpunk films and literature may have fuelled cyber fear and continually acts as a source of fear over the future of technology.

    • I defiantly agree, especially for people whos only exposure to information about cyber technologies come from movies. In this case the fear is sort of unfounded, but then on the other hand we have people actually experienced with and or researched in these technologies making these stories, so it becomes a cycle of founded fear shaping unfounded fear.

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