Alister Cameron // Blogologist

Changing the world. One blog(ger) at a time.

Are you really in control?

I’m reading through a Pew Research report titled “Millennials will benefit and suffer due to their hyperconnected lives”. It’s fascinating reading.

Only five pages in, and I was struck by this paragraph, which has been percolating in my head ever since, and which I encourage you to read thoughtfully…

“There will be a premium on the skill of maintaining presence, of mindfulness, of awareness in the face of persistent and pervasive tool extensions and incursions into our lives. Is this my intention, or is the tool inciting me to feel and think this way? That question, more than multitasking or brain atrophy due to accessing collective intelligence via the internet, will be the challenge of the future.”

The person behind this quote is Barry Chudakov, a research fellow in the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. I know nothing about him, but I love his thinking.

Lets unpack this a little, and as a father of teens and pre-teens, it’s stuff that I think about a lot and am “bothered” by…

By 2020, the typical Western kid is going to be so immersed in technology that he/she won’t readily know where the technology ends and he/she begins. That’s actually pretty scary. It thus puts a premium on the skill of maintaining a proper and comprehensive sense of self. It means being able to constantly ask oneself, “Do I own the decisions I’m making? And am I consciously choosing to head in a given direction, or am I being ‘led’ there unconsciously by the prompts and triggers of the technology that’s supposed to be adding ‘leverage’ to my natural abilities, but not ‘steering the ship’, as it were?”

And knowing youth as I do, they don’t yet have the brain maturity – even at a physiological level – to display an adult’s kind of judgement and self-discipline. It’s going to take adults in their lives to help them be very deliverate and disciplined about how they use technology to their advantage, but not to the point where they’ve, in actual fact, surrendered a lot of control to the “devices”.

Futurist John Smart explains, in very basic terms, how we develop maturity about this stuff:

“As machine intelligence advances the first response of humans is to offload their intelligence and motivation to the machines. That’s a dehumanizing, first-generation response. Only the later, third-generation educational systems will correct for this.”

Yeah, but while it’s still a first-generation response, it’s our youth who are most deeply experiencing it, and thus it’s our youth whose welfare we’re risking the most!

So there’s some stuff to think about: at the same time as technology can enhance our lives, our early efforts to embrace it responsibly are typically messy and, in hindsight, seen to be – at times – damaging and destructive. I’m just worried our kids are going to get hurt the most.

The Pew Research is great reading! Love to hear your thoughts…

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