This week’s readings focused on the issue of technological convenience and how it affects basic human functions – namely our behavior and ability to think critically. In the current climate, most people have access to the internet through their phones at any given time, and we are virtually always connected online. This makes it incredibly easy for us to simply look something up rather than try and work through any given problem ourselves to try and arrive at our own conclusion. To make matters worse, the increased presence of corporations and their associated opinions on social media makes it even easier for us to stop thinking for ourselves. Why bother read the transcript of the latest G20 when you can simply spend 10 minutes reading what Buzzfeed thinks about it? The way in which social media allows information to spread is not necessarily the cause of widespread misinformation, but rather it highlights the issue. It’s no doubt that “fake news” existed before social media (tabloids and basic rumors and gossip), but a lack of education about reliable versus unreliable sources has caused social media to exacerbate the issue.
The current state of technological pervasiveness is both a good and a bad thing. On one hand, it makes learning new skills incredibly easy, and allows us to complete both large and small scale tasks (think factory production vs making a shopping list) much more efficiently. It allows us to stop worrying about the easy things and start focusing on the important things. For example, once a physicist knows how to make basic calculations for experiments, they can let the computers do the calculating and they can focus on applying their results to research new areas. On the other hand, it has started to become an almost necessary piece of almost every aspect of our lives. The amount of power and influence certain conglomerates have is quite scary: it is getting to the point where our whole opinions of things are molded by the information sources we choose to read. The current state of technology has created a sort of impatient atmosphere. We are so used to having instant gratification, be it instant access to information, or instant replies to text messages.
The Amish approach to selective introduction of technology is very interesting. They recognize the immense usefulness of various technologies, but are careful to implement and take advantage of them only in certain situations, such that they do not compromise their values as a community. This allows them to have successful factories that make use of computers, but also allows them to remain a grounded, close community. Snapchat is a good example of an aspect of technology that the Amish community has avoided, to their benefit. It’s pretty common in today’s world that someone shares a picture online of someone in public without their consent. This can often lead to conflicts if the subject of the image gets wind of what’s going on. This is a problem the Amish simply don’t encounter.
We think that an approach such as the Amish’s could benefit everyone when it comes to reclaiming our ability to think freely. The Amish community foresaw what we are experiencing today: technology is too invasive and is beginning to take over every aspect of our lives, right down to the very way that we behave. A healthy balance of technology-assisted life and “normal” life is sorely needed: if we continue on the current path, it likely won’t be long before, as Carr mentioned, technology replaces our innate ability to express ourselves.