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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Technology Controlling Us? I Think Not.

In his book, The Shallows, author and blogger Nicholas Carr agrees that “technologies are not merely aids to human activity, but also powerful forces acting to reshape that activity and its meaning” (Carr 47), which was originally said by the political scientist Langdon Winner. I disagree with this statement for a few reasons. I don’t believe that they are technically “powerful” by themselves or that they have their own minds and are forcing us to do anything. I really don’t think that they have any power over us and that we control them and have all of the power over them.

In my opinion, technologies are just devices constructed from intelligent men and women that make themselves and also other users who buy the product powerful, not the technology itself. The technologies are in a sense powerful because they can perform certain tasks that could not be performed in that manner before, but not in the way or sense that the quote meant by the word powerful.  I really don’t think that the technologies themselves have minds or intents, or that they’re working to reshape what we do and how we do it. I think that sometimes the result of using them can change how we think or do certain things, but it’s not like that was the technology’s intent. The result of changing how we do things was human’s intent. We wanted a different way of performing the task. The result of the way we think was not technology’s intent either. It was just a byproduct from using the machine and could’ve most likely been foreseen and expected by philosophers or psychologists. At the time though, no one was thinking about what it would do to our minds. They were just thinking about how it would help us accomplish certain advanced tasks more quickly and efficiently.

If technology was powerful by themselves, that’s basically implying that if we left the devices by themselves with no human using them, they would work on their own. Of course if we leave them alone, for example, a computer or phone would lose battery, maybe update itself, or shut off. But those are things that we programmed the technology to do. So basically they are not acting themselves, but acting because of us and by us. If it really was powerful itself, I’d think of that as the technology moving on its own or doing other actions that we would not expect it to do.

In conclusion, I obviously disagree with the statement that suggests technology is a powerful force acting to reshape human activity and the meaning of our activity. The quote in Carr’s book reminds me of a horror movie called Stay Alive. In the movie, a group of friends play a video game and each one who dies in the game dies in real life, suggesting that the video game (a technology) was controlling real life events. To end this blog post, I’ll just say that movies like these are fiction for a reason.

Jill Zalewski

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