The Danger of Thinking the Way Technology Wants Us to Think

What scares me most is how we start to think the way the technology wants us to think.

I think what we see over and over again with technology is that as it – as a new popular technology begins to be woven into society, woven into our personal lives ever more deeply, we not only change the way we behave or the way we think, but we change what we value about human beings, about ourselves.  And what scares me is not just the changes in thinking that the internet I think is promoting, but the way we see signs that we are beginning to devalue the whole idea of solitary thought, or contemplative thought or very attentive thought.  And you see this in just changing kind of mores or social norms.  

You know a couple of years ago, if we were having a conversation and I pulled out my iPhone and you know, checked an incoming email or a text or something, we’d consider that rude.  Or you do it in a meeting or whatever.  Now it’s just becoming normal.  That’s its becoming expected that you know, even when we’re talking with our spouse or our kids, we’re not going to get their full attention, we’re each going to be processing different streams of information simultaneously.  And I think that shows how these – how quickly we can change not only our behavior, but our idea of how we should behave in response to technologies.  

And as we do that I think, and I think this is actually part of a longer term shift in the way we think about thinking.  I think we begin to believe that thinking is always just a matter of kind of rapid problem-solving and exchanging information in a very utilitarian conception of how we should use our mind.  And what gets devalued is those kind of more contemplative, more solitary modes of thought that in the past anyway, were considered central to the experience of life, to the life of the mind certainly, and even to our social lives.  

And so I think that’s what scares me most is that we become – we start to think the way the technology wants us to think.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio. 

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