Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Computer Infatuationists

"No technology is neutral.
Each tool we use
changes the way we work
for bettor or worse.

The same is true for today's digital frontier, which holds a mix of promise and peril. Unfortunately, many of us seem to have embraced an ism that says new technology is good technology;

but in some cases,
our tendency to dive in
means we may miss what's really happening
beneath the surface."

A common theory of society is that most people began as artisans. As cultures started becoming domesticated and thriving within towns and villages, people settled in. The main demand changed from a hunter or food gatherer to a need for people that could work with their hands as a "primary" career. Towns eventually grew and villages became cities. Most people moved ahead to a career within the "secondary" category. Instead of creating things such as tools and structures with their hands, their jobs became human-focused. Direct human service such as accounting, lawyership, care-giving, and the like became the most popular demand.

Most sociologists today would exclaim that we are now moving into a "tertiary" career track. Instead of directly creating things with our hands (primary) or performing a face-to-face human service (secondary), we will begin working through other means. With the use of telephones, computers, and the internet, people will no longer need to be in direct contact with each other in order to work. It has been stated that one day, most of us will just need to get out of bed (or possibly remain lying in it) and meander over to the computer to "go to work." Instead of performing physical or personal labor, our individual knowledge and influence will be utilized over electronic means.

Now, this tertiary career change is not necessarily evil or inhumane like some cultures might proclaim (such as the Amish and some Islamic sects). Using technology has its place. In fact, it may help the Christians call, "to serve your neighbor," even more convenient.

At the same time, we need to remain aware of what is happening.

Many philosophers themselves have struggled with the difference between idea and substance / noumena and phenomena / primary qualities and secondary qualities... It is extremely difficult to rationally prove that any real thing exists outside of one's body. With modern technology, the gap gets even broader.

In many households today, kids are obsessed with remaining online. Monitors and iPads have created a new form of mesmerization that the world has never seen. It leads me to picture a man from just decades ago walking up to someone watching TV, using a nook/kindle/iPad, or watching a monitor and asking them, "What's so great about watching a glowing box?!?" He would surely think that the "victim" must be under some sort of trance or possessed state.

This reminds me of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Montag's wife, Mildred, is obsessed with watching TV's encompassing three of the four walls in their living room. It seems as if she has no real life, even if she did she would have to think for herself and put herself out there, so it is much easier for her to stay home and read from a script so that she can have this sort of life. So she doesn't have to think, the walls think for her. She would be glad if her husband felt the same way.

In his other book, The Illustrated Man (a collection of short stories), Bradbury has a chapter entitled "The Veldt." Here, two parents use an electronic nursery to keep their kids happy. It works. The wall screens and room all appear real and joyous. Only, when the parents threaten to take this new, miraculous, world away from their children, the kids change the rooms settings to a dangerous veldt (African Plain) filled with lions. They trick their parents into being locked inside the nursery with the lions who are supposedly harmless and machine-generated. It is implied that the parents are quickly mauled and killed by the atrocities of the machine.

Knowing his books were written in the 1950's would make Bradbury seem like some sort of prophet.

It would be easy to give into the trap of Mildred, relieving ones self of the stress in worry or the need to think. Sitting in front of the TV all day is a new form or relaxation and comfort. But, if we are not careful, it sways to a new form of gluttony, sloth, and degeneration. What was meant to be used as a tool for broadcasting information and increasing knowledge may prove to do the opposite.

In the nursery world, the kids become addicted to the machine. They also prefer it to the real world which contains real struggles. They become apathetic to natural life and replace it with the synthetic. This synthetic then destroys all they have, their only care-givers, their parents. Instead of learning to love their family, they destroy it as a sacrifice to the machine.

If we are not careful, we might fall into Mildred or the children's traps. We need to remember that there is more than just electronics. There is a whole world out here to explore. It's more than just pixels and sounds. It's emotion, experience, ..., trials, joys, beginnings, and endings. It's life!

... Just think about it, you wouldn't want to watch a show if all they did was watch TV would you? ...

The computer is great if utilized as a tool (and an excellent device in "serving your neighbor"), but dangerous if it becomes more. It helps to communicate, but is it worth it if you forget how to talk one-on-one? Many people are terrified of public speaking, but relieve themselves by posting their thoughts online. Do these things correlate? Is the internet a misused relief-system? There is a place and time for the internet, but it should not be every place and all the time.

Do not become too mesmerized by the screen in front of you to forget the world that's around you.

The most terrifying thing about this article is that I find myself needing to heed this warning too.

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