Technologically Advanced, Socially Inept?

Brynn Hardwick

Throughout history, people have marveled at the innovations made in technology to improve the way of life. Increases in mental health, better quality food, higher intellects and more job opportunities are just a few of the many benefits to these implementations. Above all, the way that it morphs knowledge and makes it last forever is an important part to human intellect. Without this way of preserving documents, we would constantly have to re-imagine the past inventions. There would be nothing to learn from.

The inventions that we see today are accredited to those visionaries of the past, such as Vannevar Bush. He predicted that, based off of technology that writes what we speak, we will have to adjust our language. With the widespread infatuation of cell phones, his prediction soon became reality. Abbreviated words such as ‘LOL’, ‘BRB’ and ‘BTW’, has not just become the common language for phone users, but has crept into face-to-face conversation and academic papers. While this appears like an innocent change, this short-hand version of conversation is leeching valuable discussions with human beings. Previous generations are quick to point out the lack of eye contact, decreased intellectual exchanges and hurried methods of socializing. The question becomes, like Bush’s prediction became true, will our constant social networking and texting overtake our desire for face-to-face interaction, causing a socially inept future?

Among his other ideas, Bush gave a detailed description of another machine that, after punching in data, could perform functions faster than a human being. It also will be easily accessible to the masses. Does this sound like the modern day calculator? However, does this also deteriorate social interaction? Without the calculator, mathematicians will be forced to undergo training to learn how to do equations by hand. They will consult with other mathematicians, and perhaps pass this information to other students along the way.

Perhaps the invention that deteriorated human interaction the most, however, is what Bush referred to as the “Memex”. While he wrote “As We May Think” in 1945,  long before the computer was officially coined, its description is almost identical to our modern version. Everyone is probably in agreement on the vast benefits attributed to the computer, including the ability to have an endless amount of resources at your fingertips. In a world of stressed people, forced to multi-task and absorb an excessive amount of useless information, this is an imperative quality. However, its aid in the deterioration of socialization is mind-numbing. Chat rooms, blogs, and social media websites all appear to promote discussions. A deeper look will reveal the truth: the hours we spend watching media and tailoring our websites, we are sacrificing vital time forging relationships with flesh and blood beings. Of the hundreds of friends a user has on Facebook, only about a quarter of them are people that they have actual met in person. Yet, at the end of the day, the socialization that occurs online is just staring at a computer screen. The quality of interaction between us and a keyboard is equivalent to having a relationship with a book or having a conversation with a cereal bowl. We can make the interaction as personal as we would like; however, it still does not compare with our daily conversations with other humans.

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