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Social starting points for modern ways

Everything we’re doing by way of modern technology has probably already been done another way. Technology, essentially, having picked up our time-worn social functions to execute them by other means, with new form, pace and energy.

The organisation of society, the infrastructure of business and services, the communication that builds and sustains relationships – all that must be almost timeless? Sharing our dreams and the realities of our lives; making plans or securing the logistics of everyday living; interacting with the provisions of state or private enterprise are the essence of life, perhaps.

It’s simply that, now, our lives are mediated by this new and ambitious tool with a strong inclination to take over. Tech wants to predict our words, our desires, our connections – to map our lives and know us better than we know ourselves. And maybe that’s helpful. Maybe it’s relieving us of tiresome burdens and enabling us to live those lives more fully than has ever previously been possible.

But it’s funny to think we might forget the purpose, value or substance of all we’re doing – by not actually thinking all these things through, might we become careless and unaware of the original social function of our activities? (Notes One)

What I find myself wondering sometimes, is whether we’re making those essential foundations stronger or weaker. Are we spreading ourselves thin and tending toward ever more transactional encounters? Are we causing strain, or acting to shore up our collective footing? Are we investing ourselves in reliable systems and relationships that will last and serve us all well long-term?

Frequently, it seems we might be taking things for granted – communicating less well, less thoroughly, less intentionally; more caught up in our own side of the story than the challenge of empathy and mutual understanding. That, by not quite seeing the full picture of what all our actions mean or create, we might, in reality, be storing up a lot of problems for ourselves.

Technology makes things seem so “easy” that it’s perhaps forgivable we end up thinking it’s all, in fact, easy (Notes Two). Life has become so user-friendly, so convenient, with all its inevitable intricacy hidden away behind a simple, colourful screen. “Others” take care of the details on our behalf; freeing us up to juggle as many balls as we care to imagine.

Beneath it all, though, the substance of life – the understanding and truth behind all our relationships – surely still needs to be there? Hasn’t that always been the most essential thing? All of the ties between us, things we’re engaged with, and values we’re bringing to bear through every single choice we’re making (Notes Three).

Isn’t technology, as much as life itself, simply these webs of meaning woven around our lives? This sense in which all our understanding, intention and decisions are now mapped out, simplified, analysed and rearranged (often, without our knowing). How much, then, do we truly understand the significance and value of all we’re effectively handing over to that way of being?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Tools
Note 1: Cutting corners
Note 1: “Response Ability” by Frank Fisher
Note 2: The potential of technology
Note 2: Technology & the lack of constraint
Note 2: How important is real life?
Note 3: Does anything exist in isolation?
Note 3: Invisible ties
Note 3: What we bring to life

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