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Sunday, January 15, 2012

A look at the dangers(?) of technology

your brain on technology « Don't Stop Believing
Over the last week I read some provocative books on digital technology.... Here are five things I’ve learned:
  1. Texting has a proud and distinguished history....
  2. The Internet is giving us Attention Deficit Disorder....
  3. Google encourages distraction rather than reflection....
  4. The Internet is destroying our memories.... 
  5. The Internet never forgets.
 As I state in my reply, I'm not sure how much of this can be laid on technology and how much of it is the fault of the users (I also find it ironic that he's using technology to warn people of the dangers of technology):
1) The problem I have with the example here is that we don't have an alternate non-technological universe to make a comparison as to which is "better".  For all we know, it was the ability to hang up and text if the discussion became too emotional that lent her the courage to talk about whatever issue it was in the first place.
2-4) I think a bunch of this isn't the fault of technology per se, but how individuals choose to use technology.  Like you said, we could choose to read an entire book straight through.  I wouldn't be too surprised to find out that there are those people who still do so... and that many people who choose not to do so wouldn't regardless of the internet and other technologies.  On the contrary, one could argue that technology not only makes it easier to read a book (for those who choose to do so), but gives more options to more people as to how they do so (not just electronic book readers, but audio books as well).
5) I'm not quite sure what the point is here.  Our main reason for avoiding sin should be because it's wrong, not because other people might find out about it.  And we should be repentant whether they do or not anyway.
 His response:
One of the things that a lot of these books point out is that saying "its not the technology’s fault, its how you use it" is wrong. Technologies embody cultrual norms and values. The tools we use can change they world, yes, but they also change us. One example Dyer uses in his book is the shovel. We can move dirt with a shovel but in using a shovel everyday, we also develop stronger arms and calloused hands. The tool helps us change the world but the tool also changes us in the process. And this happens regardless of why you are digging the hole. In the same way, digital technologies can change our attention spans or our memory.
 And on it goes:
1) "Technologies embody cultrual norms and values."
Either I am completely misunderstanding what you mean here or this is completely false. Each individual is relatively free to use (or refuse to use) a particular technology as he or she deems fit.
2) "One example Dyer uses in his book is the shovel. We can move dirt with a shovel but in using a shovel everyday, we also develop stronger arms and calloused hands"
I have problems accepting the validity of this analogy. First, what is true about physical changes is not necessarily also true about mental and/or psychological changes. Second, the changes caused by the shovel are all (at least potentially) beneficial. Even the calluses, however painful they may be, may serve to toughen up the skin on the hand. Thus, it fails to show how a tool, when properly used, can lead to atrophy. Third, it ignores that there would likely be changes in the accomplishment of any task. I can just easily build muscle (and perhaps get calluses) walking instead of driving to the store as I can shoveling. And imagine attempting to dig the hole without using any tools. Fifth, even if mental and or psychological changes could be proven after the use of technology, this would not necessary show that technology caused the changes. It could be that those who are more susceptible to such changes are drawn to technology because of the ease it offers (or at least claims to offer). Therefore, it is impossible to say with any certainty whether they would have fallen victim to such changes whether technology existed or not. Finally, it fails to note that a jackhammer would cause even less physical changes, provided proper protection and precautions are observed Thus, one could argue that this illustrates that the problem isn’t technology itself, but technology that isn’t sufficiently advanced.
Note that my argument isn’t that technology is totally benign,
3) "One of the things that a lot of these books point out is that saying ‘its not the technology’s fault, its how you use it’ is wrong."
Unless the authors provide better proof of this in the books, this is just an argument from authority.
Note that I’m not I’m not claiming that technology is inherently safe, just that neither is it inherently dangerous,.. and that such dangers can be avoided by being properly prepared for them.

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