It had to happen as we paraded ahead zealously in its lore. Its lore is the drive to technological supremacy. I’m talking specifically though about the digital age which really came out of the 1940’s. By the 70s, big, powerful mainframes began to push the industrialized world forward. Our reliance and belief in the potential of the digital devices being produced was not only demonstrated but glorified in the media. Movies such as “War Games”.
This movie does two particular things. It glamorizes our digital age but it warns of a danger we feel but deny as just a movie. In the following Wikipedia posting on movies related to computers we see again this same dynamic played out. Computers provide so much; yet there is some kind of sinister side to all of this. George Orwell’s 1984 was probably the best representation of what seems to be happening as depicted by the short video the 7th Aeon.
The Dawning of the PC
The glamorization of the computer and it’s capacities was relentlessly pursued in the 70’s and fully delivered by the mid 80’s. The Personal Computer was developed to spread the power out to the masses. IBM at first completely dismissed this as nonsense but got on the bandwagon when the true first inventor of the PC, the Mac, was delivered by Steve Jobs. Although the Graphical user interface came from Xerox Park labs, it was still the Mac that brought this to the masses with the sole catch phrase “ease of use”.
Integrated Office Systems
By the end of the 80’s though the true potentiality of these machines could only be delivered through the integration of communications and computing enabling group power to resolve problems. Coined as Open Systems or IOS, this lead to today. However, the work that was being down ironically was for the sole use of business to get inventory to market faster and on time. Time to market was pivotal in controlling costs and ensuring the customer had what they needed.
The Web’s Historical Prescience
It wasn’t long before the interest in these devices was not just for work but for play. The internet had been around since the 60s but the approachable web as we know it came into vogue or itself in the 90’s. It connected people to people everywhere and with that evolved new, unthought of applications. It started with porn sites but quickly moved to everything else.
People began chatting to their friends incessantly on Yahoo and then Facebook and now there are so many chat sites like twitter it’s impossible to list them all.
We are social beings and in the beginning the question was being asked is this making us more social or less. The problem, until psychologists properly took on its study is that this digital technology is highly addictive in the truest meaning of the word. It affects the levels of dopamine in the brain associated with addiction. As people came to use the technology more and more. Sometimes people felt socially incompetent if they couldn’t so they were forcing themselves to learn and use something that we now are wondering whether it’s a time waster.
Socializing via Chat/Text was Not what the Digital Tech Was Designed For
As I said out of technologies comes applications not intended. Jacque Ellul espoused this is the 1950’s. He was in some ways a philosopher who was trained as a sociologist. Everything that is happening now resembles what Ellul suggested when technique as he called it or technologies appeared. Sometimes these are good and inventive and sometimes they are detrimental.
However, things, even to the young are starting to appear odd when half the people on the street are walking blindly with their phone on their nose, kids chat with each other next door rather than go over to say hello and some people won’t even answer the phone now preferring to chat in text than talk, a very a social function. Thee are other examples. Enough to say that these things are cause for great concern. A society that grows up without social bonding; is alienated and addicted to their phones will be a very sick society. This is in no way normal.
The Answer Lies in Substantive Research
Regardless of what was found and let’s say it was not at all what you’d want we’d have quite the time reversing this trend. Is tech getting away from us. Most assuredly. People are having trouble keeping up with the changes. They are having trouble with normal social interaction.
Such a society will be prone to severe mental illnesses. The benefits of the technology will be there. TV to watch when you want to watch it or valuable info at your finger tips is more than fine. Living so you can use the device not for its application but just to use it is another thing.
However, the downside is that if psychologists and sociologists were to find the detriments stand unto themselves, then these conveniences will not wipe out the dysfunction and unhappiness.
Jacques Ellul believe to all detrimental techniques we apply counter techniques to bring balance back. Anything is possible and with what we know at the moment I could not answer that. This discussion was really an attempt to say it’s time to look into this. In the long run, it’s better to know what will be faced than not.