During the siege of the Alamo in 1836, Lt. Col. William Travis is said to have drawn a line in the sand with his sword, imploring those who were willing to defend the fort to step across. While the story itself has since been debunked, it was good enough to insert the phrase “a line in the sand” into the popular lexicon. Originally intended to force people to choose sides, crossing a line has also become a familiar metaphor for going just a little too far. Politicians famously draw both types of lines, and then usually end up regretting it.
Most of us would step across a line to proclaim that we support the benefits of technology. There are far too many to list here, and some are more critical than others. As recently as 1800, the average lifespan was 40 years. Today, about 50% of the population is over 40. Were it not for some of the benefits of technology, half of us would be dead.
Technology is clearly beneficial, until it goes too far. Crossing that other line has sparked debates ranging from medical record keeping and DNA databases to artificial intelligence and machine autonomy. Technology allows us to gather huge masses of data (Forbes says we generate 16.3 Zettabytes/year) and continues to find new ways to utilize it. Although it’s convenient to ask Siri for the closest Italian restaurant that’s open late, it also concerns me that she knows where I am, and where I have been. The line between utility and privacy can be tough to draw.