while the technology does its work upon him


“To satisfy one habit of the reader, to keep his mind diverted and quiet, while the poem does its work upon him: much as the imaginary burglar is always provided with a bit of nice meat for the house dog.”

TS Eliot


I imagine this metaphor summarizes much of our current public narrative. As we all argue over what we deem the practical questions of the day, it is like we are the house dog munching peacefully on the meat while the entire house is looted. Much of this discussion centers around the role that the computer and technology play in our lives. That is the wrong discussion. We need to know in what ways it is altering our conception of learning, the reality of how we think, our values and, ultimately, how we shape our views of reality. The truth is technology alters the structure of all – our interests as well as the things that we think about. But maybe most importantly is that they alter the structure of how we actually think and what we value.

While I clearly believe that humans control their own destiny in terms of shaping how we think and how to cognitively manage ourselves, the truth is that everything must give way in some degree to the technological onslaught. And this onslaught not only changes the shapes of our thoughts, but it also brings a scalpel to culture. Oh. I am not suggesting that technology affects culture with precision, but rather as technological tools are embedded into culture, they will methodically begin slicing and dicing culture’s substructures. These tools have no ideology, no real bias for truth, and no solid objective except that which the tools are designed for – engagement, activity, usage. That is their mindless bid to become the culture so that they can thrive. I say that to suggest everything that we think will be forced to either fight or defend itself if we do not want these tools to ‘work upon us.’  And when is say ‘everything we think’ I include traditions, politics, norms, values, religious beliefs, social ethics, myths .. everything. If you don’t actively evaluate what is important to you, I can guarantee you will not be able to fend off technology. Maybe it would behoove all of us to think about physicist James Prescott Joule who suggested nature is very parsimonious with energy and that energy is neither created nor destroyed but merely converted from one form into another. I say that because technology is an energy user in search of, well, energy to convert TO ITSELF. I imagine my point here is that if we continue to feed it our energy and it keeps on sucking up more and more of human energy, well, what’s left of us after it has done all its work upon us?

In the end. The problem is that we, people, end up serving technology rather than technology serving us and our needs. And I imagine that goes for all the technology tools, not just algorithms. Little by little they work upon us, we munching on the meat the burglar gave is while our minds are being looted. Ponder

Written by Bruce