Technology and Culture

An Xbox 360.  A 32′ Flatscreen TV.  A Nexus 7 Tablet.  A Sony Vaio Laptop.  A Samsung Galaxy S4.  A Nintendo Wii.  A Bluetooth Speaker.  A Pebble Steel Smartwatch.  A Chromecast dongle.  And an Xbox One.

That’s cute an impressive list since all these things combined cost around $2225 and that everything listed is in my bedroom.  So, as you can see, its no surprise that I love technology.  Technology allows us to access the near entirety of human understanding, it allows us to dramatically improve our productivity (when not looking at Twitter or Facebook) and it allows us to connect to each in new and exciting ways.  Its no surprise that technology is important to human development, with every technological advance ushering in a new era for mankind.  The bow and arrow, the Printing Press, the Gun, the Cotton Gin, the Car, the Airplane, the Internet, the Facebook, the Smartphone.  All of these innovations have changed the way we live and interact in our world, and we cannot imagine the world before them.  A world before the gun, before the printed word, before Facebook?  It’s impossible to think in these terms and our only response to new technology is to adopt it and move on to the next innovation.  Thus, the story of mankind is the story of technological innovation.  But, can innovation ever be to the detriment of society?

I’m not talking about living a world like that in the Terminator Series, but rather a world in which mankind becomes so inseparable from technology that it forgets that the most important aspect of technology is bringing people together.  Its sad to think that even in advertisements, corporations are taking notice that kids can’t be separated from their smartphones even at the dinner table.  We are constantly connected to others, yet when confronted with others we can’t be bothered to take notice.  In my family, we stopped having dinner at the dinner table and instead moved into the living room so we could watch TV.  We had a paradigm shift in which my family became connected solely through technology rather than conversation.  But this was a product of many things happening at once, such as my parents working late, after school activities, amazing TV shows, and growing up.  Taking these things aside, its clear that our culture has shifted towards being more connected to the outside world.  Reading current events and news articles is daunting with the internet because where do you get your sources?  Should I read the New York Times or the Huffington Post?  Dvice or The Verge?  The Conscience of a Liberal or the Wall Street Journal?  Society is presented with endless choices, with endless other individuals whose opinions and input we take to be important in our own lives and with new opportunities for ourselves to take or to give away.  My life revolves completely around technology today, much more than it did 4 years ago.  I work two jobs and one of them is completely online.  I’m trying to get more serious about online gaming and what people think of me on facebook rather than in real life.  I met one of my ex’s through facebook before we even started dating (although we had kinda known each other in high school).  Creating websites, performing data analysis for firms and searching for academic research for essays is just some of the things I do on a weekly basis.  But, of course, I’m an atypical person, everyone is, but what can we say about our culture at large?

Western Culture has turned from one of small-scale but intimate relationships to mass impersonal relationship.  We’ve replaced a few good friends for a few thousand strangers.  For awhile in High School, my low friend count of 400-some facebook “friends” was seen as almost pitiful compared to some who had 1000+.  Why has society changed from the few to the large?  I know that we must become connected to the outside world and embrace new ideas, and that is great, but why must society sacrifice the closeness for “connectedness?”

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