Technology Is Not a One-Way Road: At a Crossroads – A Real Revolution or Only Market?

Technology Is Not a One-Way Road: At a Crossroads – A Real Revolution or Only Market?

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3770-0.ch004
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Surrounded by new pieces of technology every day, nowadays citizens often do not have so updated schemes of thinking as the hardware and software they deal with. So, they go on mainly with old ideas and are not able to imagine the future beyond the suggestions of the market. Velocity and competition myths are not born exactly with the digital age, and nonstop connection could be probably something more than only to chat with friends, watching videos and listen to music on line. From different sides, in our experience often mixed into an indistinct set, commercial social networks and non-profit ventures have in fact changed a great part of our lives and habits. But the way of technology is not already drawn, as it depends much on our deeds and choices.
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Velocity and Confusion

Are we really living, in our times, a technological revolution?

Since many years many are repeating as a mantra that technology is completely changing our lives. Is it true? It depends on the points of view and also on which technology we are talking of. Automobiles, television, mobile phones have surely changed our life. Personal computers would have changed it much more than it actually happened, and maybe just in order to avoid too many changes, the producers have provided other devices that people can use for many purposes instead of PCs, because in the end the humans beings do not like to change too much.

Two billions people are on social networks, but their “political” weigh is very light if not inexistent; strong examples of shared innovative productions are on line, together with a never seen before massive waste of time. A big struggle is probably happening in the world web between creativity and conformism, drawing different ideas of future.

Velocity is a very early 20th Century idea, the myth of Futurism. And about the present, referring above all to leisure time, sport in TV and web attending, some authors speak of “futurism of the instant” (Virilio, 2010; Redhead, 2016).

In my opinion, the conviction that the humans must always run, if we think well of it, is very curious, as today there are machines which can run for us: flights and hi-speed trains in the real space, data of every sort in the virtual one across the global network, while we are staying comfy on our armchairs, sleeping, or going for a walk, and in the meanwhile producing much more than with the hardest work until not many years ago.

In my personal experience, just the possibility we have today to stop when we need is a great chance for many activities, as we can rest when we are too much tired and confused and restart in the right time, so producing much more and much better.

Against the necessity of always applying “Clarke’s law of continuous acceleration” to every sector of the economy and also to more and more parts of our life, free and leisure time included – as for many people the “future” requires - there are not only some romantic nostalgic for the old days, but also people at the forefront of the most important technological progresses of the present time, such as eminent protagonists of the hacker movement, as the Finnish Pekka Himanem.

He writes:

The time-optimization method developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor for industrial capitalism is still alive in the network society. From the typical information professional of our time, this culture of speed demands an ever more effective use of his or her working hours. The workday is chopped up into a series of fast appointments, and he or she has to hurry from one to the next. Constantly trying to survive some project's deadline, the professional has no time left for playfulness and must optimize his or her time in order to stay on top of it all. . . . The culture of work-time supervision is a culture that regards grown-up persons as too immature to be in charge of their lives. (Himanem, 2001)

Instead of having the opportunity of changing a part of our lives, as technology allows us to do, we feel often in fact obliged to change everything according to “technology” and not free to choose when running very fast, with the aid of machines, if we want or really have to do. We behave as if we must go on always running, as if someone were hunting us.

Difficult it can be called a “revolution” to be almost compelled every day to follow and learn new gadgets and devices, which we understand only for a little part, often use not at ease, waiting for new gadgets and devices in few years or even months which will compel us to learn them again, understand only for a little part, often use not at ease… Or it is just the usual realm of Market, stronger and stronger, the same that in the 50th and 60th of last century invited us to buy cathode ray tube television sets, washing machines and Bakelite cups?

Paraphrasing a text of the already quoted rock band King Crimson, it is possible that confusion “will be the epitaph” of the present often so called “digital” age, when “post truth” seems to be ruling if not everywhere, on many sectors of cultural, political and even economical life, and those who argue against “post-truth” often may have the impression of being “alone”:

Post-truth has gone from being a peripheral term to being a mainstay in political commentary, now often being used by major publications without the need for clarification or definition in their headlines. (“Word of the Year 2016 is,” 2017)

Though, in my opinion it is very difficult not to see the substantial non-existence of many of the topics which have stirred the debate in recent years, most of them gathering around the word “digital”.

We live – despite of all the ads – in a very disconnected social context, where to divide learning from experience and even from thought is probably convenient for someone. It may be not by chance that, out of the described trends of the virtual world, in the real present the citizens of the earth are more and more giving up on a direct and responsible participation in the democratic life of their countries, delegating and entrusting their destiny to strongmen (or strongwomen).

All those “disconnected connections” put us in the center of a big contradiction, not so difficult to be seen and even forecasted yet at the beginning of social networks time: “Information technology can link geographically separated people and help them locate interesting or compatible resources. (…) they also have the potential to fragment interaction and divide groups by leading people to spend more time on special interests and by screening out less preferred contact. This paper introduces precise measures of “balkanization” then develops a model of individual knowledge profiles and community affiliation” (Van Alstyne & Brynjolfsson, 1997).

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