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Tech as an evolving second life

It’s interesting how society is grappling with technology and social media in terms of how we live, what it means, and in what respects it’s a good thing or needs adjustment.

Now and again videos, articles or artworks appear that spark concern over the implications of technology and how it’s changing us (for example, the videos “I Forgot My Phone” by Charlene deGuzman, “Look Up” by Gary Turk, or Moby’s recent animation for “Are you lost in the world like me”). Themes of loneliness, human relationship and happiness are regularly worked upon by psychologists, journalists and artists as we try to understand all this.

Then there’s the discussions around changes to our thinking (such as the BBC’s “Digital dependence ‘eroding human memory’” among many) looking at how we no longer prioritise knowledge and developing our mind, given we ‘know’ where to find information. Likewise, another recent BBC article questioned the value of face-to-face contact in learning (“Shouldn’t lectures be obsolete by now?”), suggesting it’s ineffective in the face of technology.

Questions around causality and human nature arise in response: Is thinking changing as a result of technology, so people are now more suited to that than to listening to someone? Are people forgetting how to remember now it seems an old-fashioned necessity? Are principles of education and of knowledge being asked to change in light of technology? And is there any deeper social or personal value in being present and working to relate yourself to traditional bodies of knowledge? In doing so, are we recreating realities within ourselves?

My main question with all this though is that surely we’re making ourselves very dependent upon something outside of ourselves. If all knowledge, relationship, psychological security, meaning comes through technology then we seem to have leveraged ourselves almost completely. What do we know or hold within ourselves and our environment after that? Do ‘we’ know or understand anything?

Looking back at the videos mentioned before, there seem to be social, psychological and emotional consequences arising from the spread of technology which are concerning on a purely human level. (On that note, see my recent post on “Response Ability” by Frank Fisher which takes these questions further).

Essentially though, tech is now a core part of our lives and dictates a lot of what we do and how we do so: communication, cultural consumption, everyday logistics, personal habits and lifestyles are all being shaped by it. We can look at all this as creating networks of a virtual world, layered over our existence – a second life woven above and beyond our immediate realities, and maybe replacing them.

It seems constructive, if slightly overwhelming, that these issues are being written about and addressed as much as they are. I just wonder at what point talk leads to understanding and onto change – are we going to be forever circling in these debates and the flood of data, or will we be able to form decisive conclusions on the paths to take?

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