Psychologist, researcher, speaker and MIT Institute Director Sherry Turkle (Author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other) is going against the grain. Including her own. Turkle once passionately championed the digital technological revolution and it’s role (including the full integration of robots) in our lives. Then, she had a chance paradigm shifting experience. She was invited to witness a nursing home resident (with stories to tell and no apparent human with the time, interest or analog attention span to listen) receive daily “comfort” and “empathy” from an emotionally cue-automated seal-robot (?) She left horrified.
Now she’s at the forefront of speaking out about the impact, now and to come, of our romance/deepening dependency on all things tech. When she looks ahead, it looks dark, for many of the same reasons it does to psychotherapists and others of us working in the realm of interpersonal divides and fractured intimacy. The jury’s in. On the whole, we’re just as lonely, or more so, than ever before.
The increasing normalization of virtual substitutions for real, meaningful human contact is lulling us into a culturally digitized state of “disconnected connection.” The term “technology addiction” is about to enter the lexicon. It’ll probably be recognized as a full-fledged Mental Disorder fairly soon. That’s because, Turkle maintains, technology is not only changing things for us, but about us. It’s beginning to change who we are.
I agree. I see it everywhere, at least, when I look up from my laptop long enough to take a look. Yes, the irony of “blogging” about this does not escape me. Hey, we’re all in this [alone] together.
Check out the links to her latest TED talk.
Speakers Sherry Turkle: Cultural analyst
Sherry Turkle studies how technology is shaping our modern relationships: with others, with ourselves, with it.
Why you should listen to her:
Since her pathbreaking The Second Self: Computers and The Human Spirit in 1984 psychologist and sociologist Sherry Turkle has been studying how technology changes not only what we do but who we are. In 1995′s Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, Turkle explored how the Internet provided new possibilities for exploring identity.
Described as “the Margaret Mead of digital cuture,” Turkle has now turned her attention to the world of social media and sociable robots. As she puts it, these are technologies that propose themselves “as the architect of our intimacies.” In her most recent book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, Turkle argues that the social media we encounter on a daily basis are confronting us with a moment of temptation. Drawn by the illusion of companionship without the demands of intimacy, we confuse postings and online sharing with authentic communication. We are drawn to sacrifice conversation for mere connection. Turkle suggests that just because we grew up with the Internet, we tend to see it as all grown up, but it is not: Digital technology is still in its infancy and there is ample time for us to reshape how we build it and use it.
Turkle is a professor in the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT and the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self.
“What technology makes easy is not always what nurtures the human spirit.”
Quotes by Sherry Turkle
“The feeling that ‘no one is listening to me’ make us want to spend time with machines that seem to care about us.”Watch this talk »
“We’re letting [technology] take us places that we don’t want to go.”Watch this talk »
“We expect more from technology and less from each other.”Watch this talk »
“We’re lonely, but we’re afraid of intimacy. And so from social networks to sociable robots, we’re designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.”Watch this talk »
“If we’re not able to be alone, we’re going to be more lonely. And if we don’t teach our children to be alone, they’re only going to know how to be lonely.”Watch this talk »
“We’re smitten with technology. And we’re afraid, like young lovers, that too much talking might spoil the romance. But it’s time to talk.”Watch this talk »
“We all really need to listen to each other, including to the boring bits.”Watch this talk »
“You must not become too technoledged.”
(Bonus points if you know where this quote comes from)