Does our technology surpass our humanity?

“It is appallingly obvious our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

(attributed to Albert Einstein, in 1951)

I think mankind has always had something of a love-hate relationship with technology, specifically insofar as it touches commerce and interpersonal relationships.

Sure, we like what it brings to us culturally as well as personally, but how well do we counter what this great ease costs us?

A tremendous irony that I fear has been lost on many in my own generation is how the technological gains, which have stood to connect us, can so easily render us all but completely disconnected with ourselves and each other.

Handheld peripherals can certainly be handy tools. They’re quick, require only a nominal amount of technical understanding, and often come bundled with a vast assortment of supplemental programs and widgets which enhance the personal computing experience.

A colleague was showing me some of the bells and whistles on his device and I marveled at how many tiresome chores could be streamlined into a few finger strokes across a glossy backlit computer screen that fit into the palm of his hand.

I get this, really I do.

Show me a technology that allows me to do more in less time and I’m all for it, especially if it helps me do my job better and at maximum efficiency. In journalism, time is one of the most valuable commodities we deal in and it seems there’s never enough.

But when I’m at home, or at leisure, is this really that useful? Is this speed of communication and accessibility terribly important?

In a brilliant essay for the New York Times titled “Liking is for cowards, go for what hurts!” author Jonathan Franzen captured some of my own concerns for our present Age. Namely, that we are increasingly fostering a sense of disconnection rather than connection with all of our social networking devices. That, in our zeal to broaden our connections, there is a tendency towards connecting only in the appearances.

Franzen writes: “When you go out and put yourself in real relation to real people, there’s a very real danger that you might love some of them, and who knows what might happen to you then?”

This is my concern, that we’re missing this.

Anyone who knows me, knows I maintain a rather steady dialogue both online and IRL (internet slang meaning “in real life”). That said, I would argue that I spend far more time talking with my friends in person than posting to them online…  as it should be.

But I wonder if this is becoming the exception rather than the rule.

Send me a text when you’re running late for lunch, not when you just found out you’re going to have a baby. If I said something that offended or hurt you, give me a call or come over to my house to talk about it, don’t put it on your Facebook.

Like any tool, this technology should enhance what we are attempting to do, not become the task itself.

One doesn’t buy a hammer to have something to put in the toolbox, but to build something. So it goes with our communication technology.

Technology allows us to interact with relationship at a distant, almost clinical, level and completely misses the point of personal intimacy altogether.

Of course it does, it’s a machine-based medium and we are more than merely the sum or our parts.

Enjoy the ease provided by the advances of our technology, but do not lean so mightily on this convenience that it becomes a crutch you cannot walk without.

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