The Power We Give Technology

Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press

While recently attending a Pepperdine Graziadio Business School conference that featured Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak with Founding Executive Director of Singularity University Salim Ismail, the topic of technology and human interaction was the focus.  Mainly, the question was how technology will affect human interaction in the future.

The point is to question how will humans allow technology to influence their lives.  The power to determine its influence is controlled by the user until the technology becomes so powerful that it controls the user.  That line or intersection of power and influence is where many Hollywood movies have made millions in content distribution. 

Here, there are five points to follow on how technology can be both good and bad upon human interaction. 

1. Advances the Ability to Interact

Whether the reader agrees with its uses or not, technology has introduced social media to the world.  Social media allows friendships of old to be renewed again and again.  Technology has allowed for high school friends, family, and others to see pictures, updates, and the sharing of information otherwise not available in previous decades and among generations.  Despite the faults of too much information sharing, untruthful or otherwise, it cannot be denied that technology and social media has changed human interaction or at least allowed for more of it, more easily.    

2. Decreases the Need to Interact In-Person

Social media, esports, over the top streamed content, cell phones, videoconferencing, and the like are examples of technology that has increased communication, but not in-person connection.  On the one hand, technology has made in-person contact that much more precious.  On the other hand, technology has decreased the need to meet and visit in-person.  Less human interaction through technological advancement has changed the human condition and experience even if just from the standpoint that more reliance on technology may make humans worse at interacting in-person.  For example, a person through technology is more likely to text or email a conversation that should be held in-person.  Technology through its various platforms also encourages communication and information that may be better left unsaid.  As President Abraham Lincoln said referencing the Bible, specifically Proverbs 17:28, he eloquently made the point: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

3. Increases the Ease of Acquiring Information, while Decreasing the Privacy of Personal Information

It is possible to hypothesize that where anything can be searched on the internet, or “Googled”, which has become a verb of action, the lack of the ability to work, research, and struggle to acquire information has made it more valuable in terms of dollars and cents, but less valuable in terms of personal appreciation.  When someone works for something, it becomes more important to that person.   

With the increase of information, a person’s privacy becomes less valuable or less appreciated in terms of protection.  In dating, for example, people now spend more time researching social media and internet pages on their potential mate, then in-person with the person asking questions and learning about the person.  Maybe that information saves heartache and headache, but it also espouses the alternate-adage that you can judge a book by its cover. 

Information has always been a commodity, something to be used for good and evil, or to be sold, but now its scale has made it more important to be first, than to be correct. 

4. Enriches Life with Connection & Information Sharing

Similar to point one above, utilizing technology as a tool to enrich lives is an important one because information can be used to advance the human condition.  Human’s now have more access to books, people, friends, family, data, and knowledge than ever before in the history of mankind, the library of which continues to grow every day.  What one decides to spend time learning, however, continues to be a personal endeavor.   

5. Dependence that Leads to Reliance    

Dependence on technology or anything for that matter is what drives the human condition from one of freedom and competence to one of slavery and reliance.  It should go without saying that a less educated or lazy population is bad for growth (personal or otherwise), the economy, political engagement, and human interaction.  Once one gives up his or her rights to decide, learn, and engage relying on a medium to handle what an individual should, the negative relationship is but a downward slope.  Unsurprisingly, nearly every major civilization in history has fallen because of internal decay.  Buyer and user, beware.

Humans must fight the urge to disengage, while fighting for the need to engage, with technology used as a tool to enrich lives and experiences, not to dictate the terms of engagement. 

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