Winding trail behind woodland stream

Does technology oversimplify things?

For all the good technology does us, is there a danger of it oversimplifying things? Making the complexities of our lives seem deceptively simple to the point where we don’t fully appreciate all we’re engaged in. As if, no longer seeing things in their entirety, we might lose sight of all the ways in which our lives intersect and the value of all we exchange at those points. Don’t we need to understand what we’re doing?

The idea of us thinking things are “easy” and ploughing on along these channels that others have designed for us sometimes seems strangely disturbing. Aren’t we almost discouraged from understanding? This sense in which modern life has become so complex that the task of keeping up with it all – let alone mastering it – has become overwhelming or simply impossible. (Notes One)

Aren’t we being expected to defer to others in all this? To trust in the vision they have for us and the oversight or care with which they’re handling all the data being gathered around our existence (Notes Two). As if, in ways humanity’s never been asked before, we’re placing the lion’s share of “our lives” in the hands of commercial actors we’ve never met who, in all likelihood, don’t have our interests at heart.

Isn’t it also training us in certain ways of looking at things? The interfaces they’ve offered becoming “how” we look at life and the meaning we’re able to extract from it. The options for how we respond to life being limited and defined by whichever options they’re deciding to give. As if “all this” is a strange experiment in behavioural psychology and “what it is to be human” is the outcome being determined as a result.

Doesn’t meaning come out of interaction? From the ways we’re expressing ourselves, the choices we’re making, and the messages we draw from what others are offering. This sense in which “life” is one big conversation we’re all contributing towards, listening to and finding ourselves in – the meaning of it all being, perhaps, what we freely decide to make of our opportunities and our understanding. (Notes Three)

In that light, what does it “mean” if we lose sight of life’s increasing complexity and feel it to be deceptively simple? If we start “playing” at this as if it were all without consequence – as if all our choices don’t ultimately have a human face, directly or indirectly. If we’re not seeing, imagining or concerning ourselves with what each decision truly means, what kind of world are we then living in? (Notes Four)

Humans, in all their complexity, seem anything but simple. The details that make us unique, each with our distinct qualities and interests, seem such beautiful, delicate things to be communicating around. How are we to be sure that the truth of who we are is able to travel through this, unaltered, to other ears? What if it doesn’t, and we’re left unappreciative of the rich, intersecting diversity of all of our lives?

Notes and References:

Note 1: The thought surrounding us
Note 1: All we’re expected to understand
Note 1: Life’s never been simpler…
Note 2: Situations which ask us to trust
Note 2: The picture data paints of us
Note 2: “The way things should be” as an add-on
Note 2: Trust in technology?
Note 3: Attention as a resource
Note 3: Belief in what we cannot see
Note 3: Everything’s interconnected
Note 3: “Response Ability” by Frank Fisher
Note 3: Mastering life’s invisible realities
Note 4: Might we lose our social muscles?
Note 4: Lacking the human side of community?
Note 4: Can “how we relate” really change?

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