Computing has made life much easier in almost all aspects. It has touched everything from cooking to culture. The one thing it has affected most is the notion of the self, and the implications of this shift in productive ideology could be a disaster.
Let’s start with the world before modern technology. Communities–from roving band of warriors to medieval village–had to work together in order to survive and thrive. As technology improved less and less focus on the group has been needed. Technology replaces the need for a specialist, the need to rely on your neighbour. It has worked on many levels, particularly in terms of globalisation, but the final battle is now being fought.
Computers specifically have been a massive aid to the improvement of the self. PCs meant working from home, they meant conversing from home, and they meant dating from home. But this democratization of the self doesn’t mean we have found ourselves. Far from it. Sherry Turkle, in Life on the Screen, says that, “…technology is bringing a set of ideas associated with postmodernism.” That is, instability of meaning, among various other theoretical dilemmas. Once where we had to calculate our choices carefully, computers mean that there is no need to fret while simulation takes precedence. And this insidious touch has reached out from the screen.
Companies utilise technology against the individual, to trap the present proletarian exactly where the money and power brokers want. Think about it. At the shops, we have self-serve lanes. Websites and automated answering machines force us to guide ourselves through whatever issues frustrate us, under the euphemism “trouble-shooting”. Education is moving online, prompting “sef-learning” through online courses. And all this we brought on ourselves.
Consumerism is the culprit. We wanted things for ourselves. We wanted the education of our dreams, not what is necessary to be happy. We were sick of off-shore helpline workers. We wanted faster shopping line queues. It’s been me, me, me for decades now, and the world is giving it to us in spades. What this does is cut every person off from their neighbour. It makes the individual an island of selfishness and greed. The Internet is a gateway to learning about the world from the comfort of our bedroom, yet we refuse to listen to experts.
There is a fight back, and there will hopefully always be fight. From farmers markets to Occupy, people do realise that in order to maintain the world people need to come together. The fear is that as technology does more for us, we’ll be less inclined to do so.