Just as the dark side of football has come to light, so too we’re discovering the dark side of our vaunted technology. Lately, the media has been full of digital dread: from a deluge of articles about how robots are taking over more and more of our lives; to gallows humor by New York Time’s columnist, Maureen Dowd, who recently quipped “I’m not looking forward to servitude under my iPhone;” to warnings from the likes of Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk that artificial intelligence may be the greatest threat facing humankind.
To use a football metaphor, the 1st half of the great game of civilization was Man vs. Nature. We created technologies—fire, language, tools, agriculture, and so on—that helped us colonize and ultimately conquer Nature. We reshaped the world in our image. But our technology not only transformed Nature, it also transformed us.
Machines have their own logical imperatives; technology has its algorithmic DNA. As we adapt to the machine-world we’re creating, will we be reshaped in technology’s image? Do we risk losing some essential aspect of our humanity? If the first half of civilization’s epic game was “Man vs. Nature,” the 2nd half is and will be “Man vs. Machine.”
As we slide down the technological rabbit hole into an increasingly virtual, machine-world of screens, software and apps, we may have greater need for the communal spectacle of humans battling against one another in violent competition. Football’s violence—the secret sauce that both attracts and repels us—paradoxically celebrates our humanity. We may even crave the guilty pleasure of football’s "barbaric" violence as a protest against living inside technology’s glass cage.