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technopolies

Lance Lavine warned us to not equate technological advances with progress, and for good reason. The adaptation of the ideas and research of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo to a new world view was, as Bacon defined it, progress. It opened minds to an advanced way of seeing the world, a way that embraces truth and makes available for people a tool they have always possessed: reason. It was a consciously made change, with thought as to what the repercussions might be. As Thamus said, however, the inventors of this new technology were not the ones who knew best what purpose it must serve. It took an outsider to realize its true potential, in the person of Francis Bacon. His opposition was fear, and facing fear almost always leads to progress. Thinking about technology in the immediate context of everyday life, the most glaring example is communication technology. The implementation of these technologies are done without any deep regard for the implications thereof; they are implemented at the demand of the masses, who are in turn subservient to these technologies. Doubtless these cause change, but change completely unrelated to progress. Human interaction is both facilitated and compromised through the use of things like instant messaging and text messaging. The definition of friendship has been stretched to the point of breaking by facebook. These technologies don’t have any ingrained agenda to impoverish our interactions. But we use them without a careful thought given to what the consequences might be. Their convenience value is clear. They also pack a lot of appeal in their informality; such casual communication requires little in the way of social skills or confidence. But what does such a large quantity of communication means do for the quality of interaction? The most reliable and immediate way of gauging whether a connection with someone exists is through one on one, face to face conversation. This is the most rich form of communication, as it transmits the most information. At the same time, that’s also why this is the most intimidating form of communication, and why engage in it when there are so many methods to skirt around it? The harm comes in the fact that while you are texting sweet insubstantial nothings, you could in fact be spending that time making an actual connection. Communicational shortcuts are not evil in and of themselves; used as a supplement to real conversation, they can definitely enrich communication. But careful thought must go into avoiding the replacement of real conversation with lol’s and ttyl’s.punch.jpg