Discussion: We've Always Been Afraid Of Technology

Discussion for article #232254

I loved the 5 year old’s question, but I am not so sure I am down with the idea that technology is changing faster and in more important ways now than in the past. Whenever I hear that I think of my grandparents who watched the world move from horses to automobiles, from trains to airplanes and from oil lamps to electricity. Think about how indoor plumbing and the steel bed frame changed the world. Think about modern water treatment and waste removal. Those changes were really world changing… They all happened about the same time during the early part of the 20th century.

In my own lifetime, I remember when television came to my neighborhood and my mother worried my brothers and I would never spend time outdoors. My mother talked about the impact of refrigerators, washing machines and dryers on her life. World changing.I remember watching America put several men on the moon way back in the late 60s and early 70s. I also remember my first time flying on a jet airplane to someplace. Today I can and do spend a part of each month 1500 miles away. I leave Monday morning, work all week and return home Friday evening. What about all the advances in medicine? They have been going on for at least a century. Why is anybody afraid of technological change.

An IPhone isn’t a great world shattering advance when compared to all the amazing things that have been invented over the last 100-150 years. If anything the world isn’t changing as fast as we thought it would when I was young. I still want my hoverboard.


Sorry, but I don’t understand the headline. It’s clever I suppose, but nothing in the piece supports the premise. We seem to be grasping at technology primarily because it’s new and we’re afraid of being left behind (apparently). I don’t see many people resisting it’s allure, or actively concerned about how it may change us.

I have to agree with ronbyers. My take is that we have become so self-centered and ignorant of history that we are all but unaware of the difference that “technology” has been making in our lives for several centuries.

The toys now are different, and smaller. But not necessarily life-changing like electricity or indoor plumbing, or so many other things. The wide availability of the Internet is life changing - an iPhone is just a toy. A very refined and well executed design for a toy, but still just a toy; it was not the original mobile phone (and even that pales beside electricity and indoor plumbing as a life changing technology).



I would love to see what the Mother would say to her 5 year old child when asked. ''Mommy where does the poop go?"



The problem I see here is a rather naive way of viewing technology. Given that it is driven almost entirely by entities that seek to profit from eyeballs on screens–usually through some form of entertainment or “edutainment” in a school environment. They wish us to give up our privacy, placing more and more of our lives on-line so that they can commodify us into things to be sold to advertisers. De la Boetie would have been appalled at our voluntary servitude.

Meanwhile, what is the end result? Distracted young people who walk around as if a smartphone were part of their anatomy–heads down, elbows in, texting furiously away while the world passes them by. Fahrenheit 451 indeed.

If you don’t believe me, then see what Dr. William Cronin from the U of Wisconsin had to say a few years ago as President of the American Historical Association:

“In a manically multitasking world where even e-mail takes too long to read, where texts and tweets and Facebook postings have become dominant forms of communication, reading itself is more at risk than many of us realize. Or, to be more precise, long-form reading is at risk: the ability to concentrate and sustain one’s attention on arguments and narratives for many hours and many thousands of words. I have come to think of this as the Anna Karenina problem: will students twenty years from now be able to read novels like Tolstoy’s that are among the greatest works of world literature but that require dozens of hours to be meaningfully experienced? And if a novel as potent as Anna lies beyond reach, what does that imply for complex historical monographs that are in many ways even more challenging in the demands they make on readers?”

Teach your kids to love reading. Limit the screens as much as possible. Make in-person social engagement with their peers a habit. Challenge them not to fall into the same patterns as their friends. Help them engage with Nature, art, architecture and music.

God forbid, this might even save you some cash on your electric bill…


I think the last world changing technology was the internet. People don’t realize the internet is 46 years old. Originally it linked mainframes. PCs were linked by the world wide web, The world wide web is 26 years old. Of course, since then various wireless devices have been hung on the internet. The idea of wireless comes to us from Tesla.

Can you think of any world changing technology after the internet and its son the www? Everything since has simply been to speed things up.

While I agree we all need to learn to read, I think Dr. Cronin’s fears are not new and probably overstated. I recall my parents were worried about my brothers and me learning to read because we spent too much time watching television or talking on the phone with our girlfriends. We all learned to read and all still love to read to this day. Of course, none of us has the handwriting of our parents.

I don’t think so. I think this is different, given the plethora of new distractions (all, of course, developed by marketing types solely with the aim of attracting the attention of children and teens).

Research-wise, I’d call your attention to the Common Sense Media report from 2014, Children, Teens and Reading: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/children-teens-and-reading and the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on screentime : http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/132/5/958.full.pdf+html

Just this morning I was contemplating the possibility, what if books and paper records come to be considered subversive because they’re the only hack/surveillance-proof technology that exists? I love the internet and all the tech toys that allow us to take advantage of it, but I think that people need to always ask themselves, “who is this serving?”
Almost every innovation that I’ve seen since PC’s became ubiquitous has been in the service of software vendors and at the expense of users.

If you always ask yourself that one question, you’ll be fine, no matter what comes next.


Interesting thought.

I learned computerized legal research 40 years ago while working at an appellate court. It wasn’t used much for a decade or two after that. We relied on books and had our bottoms firmly fixed to library benches. These days computerized research has become so pervasive that I doubt my associates know how to use the old fashioned paper research tools. This is funny, although I was trained to use computerized tools for the most part I didn’t. I relied on books and the library research tools until I had no choice and had to go totally digital. I found that I came up with some of my best arguments while stumbling through old fashioned paper research materials. I wonder if I would be so creative today completely unaware of how to use a paper library.

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Smartphones per se aren’t the revolutionary technology; instead it’s the universal data networks that they are portals to. The internet (in some form) will be with us going forward for as long as human civilization persists. Eventually we’ll probably have implanted data interfaces that are with us whenever we’re awake.

Other comparable inventions that have transformed human life:

Urban Living
Artificially powered machines
Electrically-based devices

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Actually, Luddites were pretty rational in their opposition to factory-made textiles. They were by & large weavers, & were seeing their hundreds of years old way of life being destroyed by what they saw as cheap shoddy goods.
Go read The Rape of the Rose by Glyn Hughes.


Ummm…Hot Pockets?


Obviously everyone isn’t afraid of technology or else we wouldn’t have technology or ever invent anything.
My kids are millenials, 25 to 32, and are mixed on technology. My middle child is the most up to date but lives in Oceanside and is much more about the beach, my oldest could care less and parties like its 1999 and my youngest is into it but spends way more time playing with his daughter, just like I did.
Yes, they text right in the middle of a conversation we are having without the slightest thought of how rude that is but for the most part, getting to the beach, river or hiking etc, is still what we love most.

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After spending three days at Disney World, my two year old son asked if the dolphin he was allowed to touch at Sea World was real.

Regardless of the plastic world we live in, it’s good to question everything. Our senses play tricks on us and people lie without any reason. You have to build judgment and trust yours instincts. It only comes from being intellectually curious.

Then there is Steve King, Louie Gohmert and Sarah Palin.

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The Romans had indoor plumbing and somehow that technology was lost or deliberately destroyed by self-righteous conquerors who thought their god was superior to science. We should never take our gadgets for granted nor underestimate barbarians with fanatical religious beliefs. The most ridiculous things they are apt to say are what they really think.

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