Technology and the loss of democracy
The readings of the next three weeks have some exciting titles! The first title is “The Daily Me.” The second title is “What is the Elephant in the Digital Room”, and the third is, “Wikinomics and its discontents”. Sighting these titles, I am most intrigued to discover the reason behind each of them. Therefore, in the next few posts, I will be sharing my discoveries and interpretations of what I think these authors tried to express.
The Daily Me
This book begins as a fairy tale. It describes a Utopian world, where humans can determine what they see, hear and read. The author believes that with the way technology controlled the society, individuals would soon be ignorant about every other thing that is not connected to their personal interests.
Apparently, the author is not alone in his thinking because Time magazine termed it, “the Me generation.” For instance: if you are interested in music, you could select just songs on your news feed, pay for only music channels on television, purchase only magazines related to music and so on. It’s just like selective attention; that is, choosing to pay attention to only things that interest you. This is what the writer coins as “The Daily Me,” implying that an individual’s daily experience is all about that individual’s interests.
Technology is made for man.
The author, however, forgot that no matter how great technology is or how it seems to be in control of man, people once existed and survived without it. On the other hand, human beings cannot survive without other people. Hence, as long as an individual remains on earth, he or she cannot do without encountering other people.
If this is so, then there is no way a person could control in its entirety, what he or she sees, hears or reads. This is only possible if a person is isolated in a universe or room without people. Because the moment you take a stroll on the streets, you would see other people, who may not look or dress like you do. That in itself is a new concept, your mind has just encountered. And for some people, they would continue to ponder on the reason for the way that other person was dressed, which would eventually lead to interest and then a search for knowledge.
So, often, even when individuals have areas of interest, they end up expanding to new areas of interest as they interact with other people, either verbally or non-verbally. Therefore, as much as the author would like to limit exposure, or in this instance, democracy, to technology that is not the way life works.
The author, in the book, explains the concept of democracy as people listening to the opinions of others, irrespective of their own personal interests. But, he believes that technology empowers people not to pay attention to the views or interests of others. Hence, the writer notes, “You need not come across topics and views that you have not sought out. Without any difficulty, you are able to see exactly what you want to see, no more and no less.”
Robots or human beings?
The author’s stance made me wonder about the impression he has about human beings. Asides from the fact that humans are social beings, how is technology able to eliminate social structures that were erected a long time ago? Does the author mean that schools or institutions of learning, churches, workplaces etc. would no longer exist? I’m sure we can agree that this is not possible, regardless of what appeared to be the new normal as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Therefore, even though one may be able to pattern how one uses the media, which sometimes works best, one cannot only see, hear or read what one wants to all the time. It is impossible!
Too much information versus too limited information
My final conclusion, therefore, is that the author analyzed this issue as a “technological determinist” and so, ignored the social aspects of it. Even on social networking sites, one is exposed to the interests of friends and others. Which, to me, means that with technological advancements, there is also the possibility of exposure to too much information that may be irrelevant to one’s life.
Thus, there are two sides to the coin- too much information versus too limited information. Irrespective of whichever seems more prevalent, critics must realize that man would always be superior to “things” (I mean, technology).
Technological growth is only rapid today because it is helping to improve lives and human interaction. So, to imply that because of technology, a time would come when human beings would only see what interests them personally is to exaggerate things just a little bit.
By Ngozi Adighibe