Technology Society Driven or Vice versa?
The question if society shapes technology or technology shapes society is really a false dichotomy. Both happen to varying degrees depending on the technology.
Part of the U.S. cultural make up that has been ingrained at a collective consciousness level is the idea of exploration. Our science moves forward regardless of possible consequences because we have a need to explore.
Before the first atomic bomb was exploded, some scientists predicted that the explosion could not be contained and that it would turn the Earth into another sun. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, but the fact that there were scientists willing to explode a bomb that could destroy the planet just to see which hypothesis was correct shows the risks that American science is willing to go just for the sake of science disregarding everything else.
That drive to explore continues to drive our technological development, but it is only a part of the complex personality that makes the United States what it is.
Part of the American Dream is the idea that at some point the person will retire into a blissful life that does not require the struggles that life had inflicted on that person before. The ideals of not working, enjoying leisure and being entertained have trickled down to those who are the workers.
Any technology that can enhance the ability to shut out the world’s problems will be quickly adopted. Those that offer a choice of the type of entertainment and the ability to participate in that entertainment will be adopted more quickly. For as much as we want to be entertained and live a life of leisure, we still are an active people.
Technology that allows us to interact with people without having to do so physical or even simultaneously satisfies the desire for Americans to be independent and the need to be interconnected. Social networking allows people to believe that they have friends without any of the messy parts of friendships. There will be no midnight calls from your Facebook friends; you choose when you respond to what they say and all interaction is really one sided.
While we explore the paradoxes of life, the American culture and technology, it is important to allow the nuances of human nature to be fully understood. When we can see the paradox that exists within us, we can create products that will satisfy both opposing attitudes.
Thoughts on Ch. 2 of "Technology Matters" by David Nye.
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