, Salem, MA

August 7, 2013

Letter: Deeper analysis needed of effects of technology

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

Brian Watson is correct that technology may not be neutral (”Online technology is not neutral,” Aug. 1). But it’s too bad he doesn’t push his analysis of “The Diagnosis” any further than a plot summary and offering a weak implication that we are under a threat by “private corporations.” He can quickly point out problems (”we increasingly rely on computers, increasingly replace humans with various ‘smart’ technologies, increasingly live online and increasingly replace live experiences with virtual or mediated ones”) but fails to show us what drives this non-neutral technology. We learn the protagonist of the novel deals with “incessant phone use, nonstop emailing and texting, constant access to a computer, reduced personal life, inadequate sleep, and above all, frenzied deal-making.” Also, we learn that “He feels that everything is rushed and that everything is computerized and that interpersonal relations have become less important than machines, technological progress and being online.”

Watson’s synopsis reveals that the bias inherent within technology would appear to be modern capitalism. Obsessed with the bottom line, productivity and profit, it demands the most efficient ways possible for the most return on investment — even if that means we give up on the human interactions because they are not efficient and get in the way of productivity. After all, there’s no profit to be made in a hug. However, there’s profit to be made with a digital hug.

Such Frankenstein-derived fiction originates as a response to the Enlightenment and Industrialization. This same period also gave us Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” and the start of capitalism. I think it’s great to have a conversation on the bias inherent in technology, but let’s actually have the conversation and not just say that companies may be scary. It’s the infrastructure that drives the technology; the ways that jeopardizes human interaction are the real challenge.

Lance Eaton