Friday, 8 January 2010

modern technology

Talking to P last night about what's wrong with modern technology (mobiles, internet, social networking etc. etc.) - today there are many fewer random interactions.

Before the mid 19th Century (in this country anyway) most people had no interactions with anyone outside their family and immediate community. Then the railways, the bicycle, the telegraph, mass circulation daily newspapers, wireless, telephones began to create a global industrial society, and people began to have many more random interactions - chance encounters with strangers on trains and in big cities, crossed lines on telephones (when was the last time that happened to you?) - random books on returned library shelves. People talked about synchronicity, or just co-incidence, about the 6 degrees of separation - a completely random set of links that would join you to anyone else on the planet in 6 jumps or less.

Now, more and more of our interactions are deliberate - we can seek out like minded people, we can find exactly the book we want, or the link on the web. We can remain in contact with our network of family, friends, work colleagues, like minded politically, spiritually, whatever through email, mobile phone, twitter . . . is this a good thing or not? To go from nothing, to enormous randomness, to deliberate connectivities - to escape the trap of where and when we are, and link up to our global family / community (and only to them). We don't even have to go out shopping. Many of us don't have to "go" to work - it comes to us down the broadband link. When we do travel, we prefer our private metal box to sharing a train or bus with strangers. Is the world disintegrating, into lots of little discrete communities, or is it really becoming a global village? Does this deliberateness of interaction increase or reduce the pace of change? Is it perhaps a response to the stress of change and globalisation? Is it more or less dangerous for us all than what went before?

1 comment:

  1. I like your blog. Regarding the random interactions, I think the difference is that as we go further back in time, first before the internet, then before the mass media, then before printed media, we had a higher percentage of active interactions, however with the mass media, there are many more passive interactions, ones in which we don't have to do anything, but just consume. The internet is both an extension of this consumption, and at the same time a simulation of real interactions, and I think this simulation is leading us to become even more alienated from our world. I don't think it is any coincidence that the destruction of our natural environment has been accelerating in the time the internet has been in existence. It is an addiction, and one day we will have to become sober to face the ruins of our physical world. But that will our salvation.