As a horror writer, I think about what scares people. And, in the new world we live in, the thing people seem most anxious about, if not outright terrified of, is technology.
And I think I have one big clue about why we get so worried, collectively, about machines. It’s the same reason we fear monsters and demons and ghosts.
Loss of control.
Zombies trap you in a shelter. Werewolf curses take people, and under the moon, make them do horrible things. Vampires have mind control. Demons take over people’s bodies. Ghosts can get around barriers. Boogeymen come into your house, a safe space, and make it unsafe. Aliens make whole planets hostile. Elder Gods like Lovecraft’s make the whole damn universe dangerous.
Humans—and this is basic philosophical musing I know—want autonomy above all else. Take away that, and you get panic and anger and fear.
So, how does technology take away our control? Well, because it is faster than us and so damn efficient that we can’t outproduce it. Technology gives us phenomenal power—so good we can’t refuse. And that’s the terror.
Let me say it in big letters: YOU CANNOT LIVE IN THIS WORLD AS A SOCIAL BEING WITHOUT USING HUNDREDS OF DIFFERENT PROGRAMS AND SOFTWARES.
So, there’s your loss of control. The tools are so good, that you have no choice, really, if you use them or not. And, the best horror stories of technology, at least in the now more paranoia-focused version as opposed to the Terminator-style the-machines-rise-above-us model, focus on two things: the inescapable need for technology and power, and that everyone else has the same power.
Everyone has all this influence. Possibly too much. And, if one or many decide they don’t like you—well, then you sir or madam are well and truly screwed. In a hundred different ways.
As technology becomes more and more an extension of ourselves, any digital attack is like neurons deciding to mutiny against the brain. It’s the same reason parasitic mind-controlling aliens or your sanity slipping away is scary: there’s no real way to escape that horror.
Even now, technology is right here with you. I’m words on your screen, after all. I’m from the technology too.
So… welcome to the future.