We Shouldn’t Let Technology Redefine Us

Plenty of conservative social critics have lamented the effect of Industrialization on Western society – specifically the manner in which people have allowed modern conveniences to overtake and replace our essential humanity. (This train of thought is thoroughly different from what Marxists have foolishly suggested, that Industrialization in and of itself was an evil occurrence, the effect of the free market.)

It is apparent that with each “technological advancement”, we’ve been convinced to sacrifice another piece of our God-given nature over to the latest convenience. Take for example the telegram. Morse Code made communication of important messages efficient all while oversimplifying the content and context of conversation. It was almost the earliest version of Twitter.

Television, a medium created for mass commercialization, has led to the popularization of the superficiality, triviality and frivolity in modern culture – the TV’s specialty being that of images and not substance. The election of John F. Kennedy proves this point. Remember that the American electorate chose him to be president due to his “good looks” and “charm” without any forethought about his policy positions and character (or rather, lack thereof).

Personally, I believe many (but not all) technologies to be ethically neutral. It’s the manner in which humanity uses such advances where the problem lies, both in its effect on others and on our individualities. The Internet is a microcosm of this. The Web is a wonderful medium, but the manner in which many employ it has caused deleterious effects on who we are.

Facebook and most other social medias are proof. Such platform’s creeds are one of networking and not socialization, although the individuals who produce them market the sites as the latter instead of the former. Yet, social media’s philosophy is one of giving every participant their shot at fifteen minutes of fame. He that posts the most salacious, scandalous and euphoric content will have won the lottery of “Likes” and most amount of views (all while the platform makes billions from taking personal information and selling it to third parties).

Far from building intimate relationships like the Zuckerberg’s of life have promised us, social media encourages fierce competition for ephemeral popularity instead.

These examples should lead the reader to develop an attitude which weighs the benefits versus the costs associated with the adoption of anything and everything that is presented as “innovative”. Instead of figuratively eating up anything that is marketed as “advanced” and paying exorbitantly for it, like much of our society does, it is important to ask whether or not it comes at a cost to our essential humanity.

Such a consideration is not new. Consider the following portion of a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to his nephew Peter Carr in 1785. Jefferson summarizes what has been written here.

“Encourage all your virtuous dispositions, and exercise them whenever an opportunity arises, being assured that they will gain strength by exercise as a limb of the body does, and that exercise will make them habitual … Give about two [hours] every day to exercise; for health must not be sacrificed to learning. A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprize, and independance to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks. Never think of taking a book with you. The object of walking is to relax the mind. You should therefore not permit yourself even to think while you walk. But divert your attention by the objects surrounding you. Walking is the best possible exercise.

Habituate yourself to walk very far. The Europeans value themselves on having subdued the horse to the uses of man. But I doubt whether we have not lost more than we have gained by the use of this animal. No one has occasioned so much the degeneracy of the human body. An Indian goes on foot nearly as far in a day, for a long journey, as an enfeebled white does on his horse, and he will tire the best horses. There is no habit you will value so much as that of walking far without fatigue. I would advise you to take your exercise in the afternoon. Not because it is the best time for exercise for certainly it is not: but because it is the best time to spare from your studies; and habit will soon reconcile it to health, and render it nearly as useful as if you gave to that the more precious hours of the day. A little walk of half an hour in the morning when you first rise is adviseable also. It shakes off sleep, and produces other good effects in the animal economy.”

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