One of my readers sent me this link, and I sent it to a Millennial or two for discussion. Here is one comment.
It started out well. I started raising my eyebrows around paragraph
six and by the end they were stuck to my parietal.
It STILL takes hassle to socialize. Arguably, it is a lot more
difficult than it used to. We live in a society which enables us to
choose whatever friends we want, but then disallows us from relating
to them in a positive way. The use of technology in communication rose
to facilitate close relationships against the adversities of modern
obstacles. Remember the Hittite seals in the TAC library? The oldest
extant form of human written communication was designed to associate a
person and his family with an object or concept after that person was
physically divorced from it. Technology develops around a need for
relationships, not the other way around.
He then uses practically the same arguments and quotes about opium
that a certain prominent atheist uses to criminalize organized
religion. The idea that you can compare something to chemicals on the
basis that it alleviates psychological pain is inherently flawed.
Nothing is wrong with alleviating psychological pain, or with, for
that matter, alleviating physical pain (in the right context). What
makes cocaine Bad is that the psychological and physical side-effects
are inherently compromising of its health benefits. The substance
itself entails a psychological dependency which is ultimately
self-destructive. Psychological dependencies which increase ones
dependence on people, rather than things, are actually quite
constructive. In other words, while the mental process of addiction
can be triggered by a variety of things, the process itself is not
destructive - it's part of being human.
The author then makes an interesting series of leaps between
psychological dependency on the alleviation of pain and "recreational"
technology. He ties recreational technology to its marketability and
playing on imagined needs. He then defines the internet as
recreational technology. This is where I get really confused. When he
defines China as a culture shut out from the technical world, I begin
to realize that his definition of "technology" is exceedingly narrow,
and somehow linked to this subdivision of "marketed recreational
technology". (It still doesn't explain why he chooses to ignore that
the Chinese were marketing board games and firing rifles at geese in
the mid 13th century, while Westerners were still playing with balls
of wool and pointed sticks).
Firstly, technology is not fundamentally recreational, which should be obvious.
Secondly (and admittedly obscurely), the internet is not fundamentally
recreational. It is a method of processing communication via data on a
global scale. It doesn't even meet the traditional definition of
"technology", but I digress. His comment that "WoW beats Wikipedia
hands down" was written in 2008 when WoW was at the height of its
popularity, having finally broken into Asia, and Wiki was still a
young and unstable community largely contained in its English-speaking
heartland, so it is understandable. I remember helping to translate
Japanese articles into English at the time, and look back and laugh at
the pointlessness of some of our arguments! Now WoW is on the decline
and Wikipedia is the sixth most accessed web service in the world,
after a handful of search engines and social media engines, and well
ahead of Twitter, Amazon, and Sina. It is set to hit 500 million
unique visitors in a month for the first time this Autumn. The total
number of people who play online games (of any variety) is estimated
at a relatively paltry 217 million.
Thirdly, and what I seem to remind people of in a daily basis, the
internet is composed of people. If you are looking at a website, 90%
of the time you are interacting with a person (like it or not) and the
vast majority of that time you are interacting with a single person or
a small group of people. At the heart of the popularity of the
internet is its connectivity. The popularity of facebook and twitter
attests to that. But perhaps this is precisely what he finds
I think the clue to his thought is finally evident in the penultimate
paragraph: "We don't have the time-intensive life we once did."
Maybe if you live in Montana; *average* worker productivity in the US
is 300% of what it was in 1900, and the time spent *not* working, at a
workplace, or commuting is at an all-time low. The speed at which
recreational use of new technology is adopted has nothing to do with
our desperation for it; it has to do with the speed at which it is
absorbed. The more complex and the more adaptable technology is, the
longer it takes to adapt ourselves towards it. The attempt to make
computers more sensitive to what the user thinks is an attempt to make
computers more Human, not an attempt to make humans more Digital. The
human brain is physiologically not a binary engine and it never will
be; we are not electronic. However, we do use the same formal logic as
computers. There are dangers, certainly, in encouraging humans to
think hyperlogically (epistemological relativism being one of them),
but this obviously isn't what he's getting at. He seems to think that
we live in a *less* busy world, a world in which most of us are bored
and obsessed with recreation, and the internet is our easiest way of
passing the time while avoiding real human interaction. I would argue
that we live in a vastly more busy world, a world in which most of us
are overworked and obsessed with greed, and the internet it our
simplest method of establishing real human interaction.
Anyway, I guess I still don't "get it", but I've tried...