There’s always a price for what you want.


“Of course, in an age of madness, to expect to be untouched by madness is a form of madness. But the pursuit of sanity can be a form of madness, too.”

Saul Bellow, 1959


‘The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured; the second step is to disregard that which can’t be easily measured … the third step is to presume that what can’t be measured easily really isn’t important … the fourth step is to say that what can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist.’

Daniel Yankelovich in Corporate Priorities: A Continuing Study of the New Demands of Business (1972).


This is about how technology has left nothing untouched and how that effects education and ongoing learning <education or in general> which impacts society. Generally speaking, in today’s world, technology, in some form or fashion, is at the core of everything, and yet technology still requires deliberate interaction which means that other than a fraction of each day when one is using a device you are not really ‘connected’ – albeit connected. This means while you may spend a great deal of time glancing off a wide range of ‘reality’ you do so passively from a technology standpoint. I say that to remind everyone of the ‘human layer’ to everything in life.

Look. I am an unequivocal believer the future is about, and of, humans, am clearly humancentric in future thinking, and, yet, when discussing the future of technology, I argue/debate with other ‘humans will define the future’ people than I do technology people. That said. Technology has become so fundamental that its availability – and lack of availability (because that has consequences also) – actually set some constraints, as well as some limitlessness, TO our social scale.

Let me explain.

It is clear that technology, including automation, algorithms and AI, inspire a variety of less-than-positive consequences behaviorally and psychologically. But it’s also clear that, well, it’s kind of hard to imagine any aspect of life untouched by technology not just social media or having fun, but also in terms of how people work, earn a living, educate themselves and, in general, interact with each other. There is almost no stage of the science, art, medicine, archeology, learning process or any imaginable field where AI hasn’t made an impact. Even education. And the more we draw it into our quest for knowledge, the more it changes that quest or, as Marshal McLuhan said: “we shape our tools and thereafter the tools shape us”. We’ll have to learn to live with that, but in order to ensure a positive path we need to be sure we continue asking the questions creating the next generation(s) of technology.

Which leads me to where I believe we go next.

Almost everyone I know discussing this issue speaks of ‘leaning out’ from technology, i.e., “how can we limit our usage and interactions with.” I think they are either nuts or naïve. I think we should be discussing what we should do as people is to lean in more & more into technology. I believe this because I cannot envision a scenario in which future generations will be less dependent upon technology than we are now. Just spend any time with really young people and they aren’t just technology-natives, they are technology dependent. In other words, they are elevating what they do and think via technology.

                             ** note: I have believed this since 2010 when I built an online education platform (using metaverse ideas before metaverse became a thing). The closest I have ever seen anyone share my point of view to the level I do is Mike Walsh and his view on Generation AI.


Business, if its honest with itself, is the same. Now, we can haggle about whether that dependence is good or bad or how much dependence is good or bad, but haggle or no haggle, technology is integral to their life, i.e., nothing is left untouched.

Regardless of your view, accepting technology is integral to our future in some form or fashion should influence the nature, and types, of the technologies we develop, the ways in which we use them and the manner in which we respond to their consequences. If we choose to do so, we can shape these technologies and how they affect our lives in a positive active way rather than in a passive usage way.

The greatest obstacle, circling back to the beginning, is actually found in the word ‘untouched.’ Most solutions to technology/human issues seem to focus on how to make technology touch humans less <selective usage, space away from technology, etc.> rather than saying “if everyone and everything is untouched, how can we shape those technologies to benefit people.” In other words, if technology is going to touch more, and more often, (and it will), then let’s construct a healthy relationship and engagement with technology.

This means we need to stop applying an old belief system on a brand new generation.

The effect of technological change on human concentration and focus has been positive in my eyes (by technological change I am including any web based interface – websites, blogs, games, wii, etc.).

My point of view is not shared by most others. Inevitably it seems people only want to highlight the bad and ignore the good (or possibilities). In doing so the old belief system leans in on, well, old beliefs. I am not suggesting that everything old is bad, just that it’s the wrong place to begin your thinking if you want to create something good for the future. Let me use a lecture given to West Point cadets, “Solitude and Leadership” (I think this article is in The American Scholar Spring issue), to make some points. In this lecture William Deresiewicz discusses the necessary, and potentially eroding, skill of concentration and its effect on leadership (or becoming an effective leader). Let me say in general I agree with the basic premise of what he suggests discussing. With regard to today’s world, he says this:

Multitasking, in short, is not only not thinking, it impairs your ability to think. Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it. Not learning other people’s ideas, or memorizing a body of information, however much those may sometimes be useful. Developing your own ideas. In short, thinking for yourself. You simply cannot do that in bursts of 20 seconds at a time, constantly interrupted by Facebook messages or Twitter tweets, or fiddling with your iPod, or watching something on YouTube.

Ok. Here is what I believe. He is suggesting that technology/web is cheating kids (or young people) by forcing multi-tasking which inevitably discourages thinking and coming up with original ideas. There are a couple things in that thought but let me start with ideas.

Ideas are more typically created by the crashing together of multiple stimulus (sometimes more is better upfront) of existing factoids and the ability to assimilate and shape the idea from those factoids. Well. Technology serial tasking (not multitasking) is just that – being conducted at lightning speed (on occasion). I believe the internet is assisting a new generation to be some of the best thinkers and ‘idea creators’ we will ever see. The multi-dimensional games kids play at an amazingly young age is helping shape imaginative creative quick decision making and ideation. In addition, the games also teach trial & error so that kids can experience a ‘poor decision’ versus an ‘effective decision.’

Another section of the lecture speaks then about the challenges of concentration (and the idea of solitude to avoid distractions). Basically, what the lecture argues is the web does not enable a sense of solitude where, given you ignore the distractions, you can concentrate on the important things. He argues for the necessity of slow, independent thinking, of solitude, of the hard work of thinking things through. He writes:

Concentrating, focusing. You can just as easily consider this lecture to be about concentration as about solitude. Think about what the word means. It means gathering yourself together into a single point rather than letting yourself be dispersed everywhere into a cloud of electronic and social input. It seems to me that Facebook and Twitter and YouTube– and just so you don’t think this is a generational thing, TV and radio and magazines and even newspapers, too– are all ultimately just an elaborate excuse to run away from yourself.

What I believe he misses is that he is ignoring the immediacy interactive aspect of the web. Concentration is not on a time continuum.

Length of time does not necessarily translate into better concentration. In fact, the younger generations are becoming more and more accomplished at short concentration, or focus, abilities. The ability to assimilate an astounding amount of detail and information and sift through it to make the inevitable decision. In addition to that ability I have personally seen that when you challenge that decision they have the ability to quickly resift the information and assess “where they went wrong.” I won’t argue with anyone that this ability comes at the expense of other things (because I am sure it does) but I would argue it is reshaping how people think and do.

He goes on to further suggest “solitude doesn’t have to mean introspection,” and that there is a valuable “solitude of concentration.” What he is really talking about is ignoring distractions in order to focus/concentrate. Yeah, well, younger people will probably be able to teach the boomers something about this (assuming the Boomers actually can hear or want to learn something new).

We already see signs in young people of what I personally call the “funnel concentration” ability. What I mean is that in an incredibly short period of time a young person can assess the situation and ALL distractions and starts eliminating unnecessary distractions and absorbing useful distractions to ultimately close them all out at the point of isolated concentration (‘so, what am I going to do’) and then “do.” Take a moment and reread that. I say that because what I am suggesting is a slightly different way about thinking about critical thinking and situational awareness. And maybe that is how we should be thinking about future generations – they will think just a bit differently than we older folk do.

Look. Deresiewicz is arguing concentration skills are eroding because of the internet. Shit. A lot of older people are saying that. He is wrong (really wrong). Concentration skills are evolving. And in some ways better than they have ever been.

In addition, some people argue the internet will create the decline of ‘contemplative thought’ (or taking learning in solitude, creating their own ideas/thinking and applying it to the outside world gaining a more worldly insight through reflection). I don’t agree.

Those people have never seen a teen playing one of those web-based games where they are playing people around the world making decisions quickly and seeing the repercussions immediately (and reacting). Those people haven’t seen teens discussing complex issues on niche sites of interest bouncing ideas off each other and debating their merits (in their own cryptic vocabulary). Let me be clear. I am not suggesting no solitude for thinking is good, just in how we define solitude. For example, in this little clip Austin Kleon discusses finding a ‘bliss station’ and actually uses, uhm, technology. That said, where I think we could improve how we think about this is to encourage kids, and people in general, to think in networks and systems and connectivity (conversations are the smallest unit of change) instead of all this talk about isolation and isolated problems and isolated thinking.

Which leads me back to ‘leaning in.’

Suffice it to say technology, because it leaves nothing untouched, generates a range of problems beyond the technology sphere with some ramifications/consequences for the future.

We need a systematic method of bringing other areas outside of technology expertise to bear. To me this is an industry solution and, yet, looking around we can easily see we have an institutional problem (technology, economy, political, business, society).  The internet, technology in general <including AL/algorithms beyond social media>, seems to be out of control and the social system incapable of functioning and trying to absorb the bludgeoning from the internet <and technology>. My concern is that the lack of agreement on this issue, leaning in or leaning out, is problematic because as technological developments evolve, we could quickly find ourselves driven deeper into a less-than-positive social/human hole in which technology makes that dependence I spoke of earlier slowly chewing away at our mental and intellectual fiber. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out we are facing what Norbert Weiner pointed out that we need to be sure of our objectives because the machines would outpace the designers at some point in combination with, well, humans in that there are some humans seeking to exploit the flawed technology universe.

Let me circle back to humans defining our future.

People, maybe society, but certainly people make the decisions with regard to where technology goes from here.

People will decide whether behavioral algorithms get fixed.

People will decide whether automation replaces human jobs.

People will decide whether fake content gets addressed.

Technology development is not faceless. Business leaders, computer scientists, technologists and public policy-makers choose to develop the technologies for good <or to the benefit of people> or choose to absolve themselves of the responsibility. They will shape the future which is important because inevitably it will be society, people, which will find the “sweet spot” in which humans and machines can work together. This vision could be encouraged by introducing incentives that encourage companies to develop AI systems that can avoid large-scale societal risks and encourage large-scale societal benefits. Once again, it is important we, well, think about leaning in to the relationship between people and technology because the reality is that technology is both a creator of inequality AND equality.


“The important thing to appreciate here is that a direct new innovation in one particular capability can have far-reaching effects throughout the rest of your capability hierarchy.”

D. C. Engelbart


Which leads me, lastly, to the entire untouched thing.

If nothing is untouched, well, what happens when it longer touches? What I mean by that is technology in and of itself is actually nothing. Without people using it and content in it (this includes data) it is – nothing. But in leaving everything untouched it has become something and that something can be debated as reality or mirroring things in reality. This may sound esoteric, but I have a point, two in fact. The first is the internet is of reality in its totality (theoretically all of existence in the present exists in some form or fashion via technology) but we, as individuals, only see scraps. We see fragments and halfisms. And from those scraps we create what we PERCEIVE reality is. The corollary to that is we can choicefully ignore parts we don’t want. So, while the potential exists for making a collective belief possible, it just doesn’t happen. Common sensemaking is going to be difficult but at some point we need to tackle ‘halfisms versus wholisms’ so that while not everyone will ever see ‘the whole’ the fragments do not drive the narratives.

The second is in any given moment the internet/technology is lingering near an exit door. What I mean by that is while reality exists whether we like it or not, technology can say sayonara anytime it wants. And if and when it decides to exit, we are left with, well, you and I and all the shit reality has to offer – with no choices on whether we want to ignore them or not. My point on that is while nothing is left untouched by technology – it is a precarious relationship. The best way I can explain this is from the past. For years people bought papers so they could see their favorite comic strips. It was kind of an anchor reading moment – until the newspaper discontinued the comic strip. A touch point was removed. Gone. That reading anchor went ‘poof’. Now take that charming little example and extrapolate it out to civilization and the underpinnings of all activity. Yeah. Not only no comic strip, but nothing to read at all.

Nothing is left untouched until it isn’t. Yeah. That’s the deal. The physical world and all its troubles exist with or without technology. It would behoove us all to ponder that for a moment. Why? Well. Let me take the optimistic thought path. If technology touches everything in reality it also has the potential to address many of the problems in reality – if we choose to touch those things with technology. The pessimistic thought is given the ubiquitousness of technology these days we are fucked if the world wide web crashed and we were all untouched by technology.

I am certainly not suggesting we all go back to pre-technology days and, in fact, I believe given what I have just written I triple down on leaning in ON technology seeking to ensure a safe technology connectivity to reality (and us) so that we can maximize its benefits 24/7/365. I also believe given what I wrote we should be tripling down on technology to help us solve/resolve some of reality’s most relentless ‘wicked’ problems and issues.

Which permits me to end where I began: there is always a price for what you want.

Ponder the price we have to pay for a world where nothing is left untouched by technology.

Ponder the price we have to pay if we do not lean in on technology.

Written by Bruce