Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Social Technology

This is one of those posts which are sorta serious but not depressing. Occasionally, my academic training kicks in and I muse about the world around me in a way which sounds much more intellectual than it is. Really, it is just my attemot to understand my world and deal with some of the raging controversies in a dispassionate way. If you are looking for a post about my kids, or why I'm angry at adverbs, or some other rant, come back later when I will, no doubt, be in more of a mood to complain about that guy who did that thing at that place. Right now, I want to deal with the current state of humanity. Once I figure that out, I should be good.

Technology is a neat thing. It is so broad a term as to include every invention and innovation which allowed people to deal with their world. On a side not, "techology" is not a word but I am laying claim to its coinage (the 28,000 or so google hits be damned) as the study of technology. Recent improvements in technology, especially with the introduction of electronics and the computer have changed how mankind deals with the world and other mans-of-the-kind.

But criticisms seep in. This reliance on the web and computers actually, according to recent news stories, makes us dumber than cavemen who had to solve problems themselves. Yeah, but they also lived in caves. Sure, having guns makes us less physically able to kill dinosaurs with our bare hands, but I'll stick with the gun approach, thanks.

So here are some of the ironies I have noted based on anecdotal observations, not cold, hard statistics.

We read fewer books and thus fear a loss of literacy. But increased texting and the proliferation of smart phones increases the amount we have to read and write.

Texting and such allow for a sloppiness of spelling. And yet the built in dictionaries increase the chance tha our finished product will have properly spelled words.

We spend so much time staring at the screen that we increase isolation from other people, yet we now interact with more people in constant ways than ever before because the web allows us to send our thoughts around the world to complete strangers.

Facebook and its watered down notion of "friend" cheapens the import of actual human bonding. But through the FB system we can connect with people from our pasts who, a generation ago, would have been wiped from our memories, thus limiting the number of "friends" we could connect with.

The electronic age has fostered a need for immedate gratification -- the web means I want to know everything and get answers right now. But the immortality of material online means that I can make comments on a year-old story or read over comments made years ago and see how they compare to subsequent growth in the world, or the person who wrote the ideas.

Ever present technology leads to a laziness of intellect and body but the constant stream of new products and devices requires a flexibility and need to assimilate new skills and vocabularies unheard of in the past.

A lack of online gatekeepers makes it difficult to distinguish quality of information, but that same lack removes the censors, blinders and limitations and exposes us to voices which we would have not heard of otherwise.

So it looks like all this computer stuff is a double edged sword not seen since the invention of, well, every technology that came before it. From TV and radio to refrigerators and double edged swords, themselves, it seems that every shift in technology has made humanity adapt when it adopts.

I think one could start a class about this -- maybe even an entire Techology department. Dibs.

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