The Paradox of Technology (in Off-topic)

MissingNo May 2 2007 2:56 AM EDT

Technology is supposed to make quality of life better for us as a society, right? But is that what's it really doing? I'm not talking about medicine or technology that can keep your heart beating or anything like that. Those are most likely good. I'm talking about how technology has made society in general devolve.

"Living a good life" has now become synonymous with "owning a bunch of stuff I don't need". I mean, look at what we preoccupy ourselves with. We worry about getting giant hi-def TVs, 300 GB iPods, 500 GB hard drives, the newest cellphone.

It causes us to isolate ourselves from everyone else. I know specifically that a lot of people in my age group submerge themselves in games and their whole day revolves video games. Without video games, they would have almost nothing to talk about. That's how important games have become. They shut people off from experiences that might make a person interesting outside of the video game world. I notice I am doing it too. Except for the occasional philosophical pondering, I'm a really boring person. And instead of being forced out to experience things that could help me grow as a person, I'm fully able to sit behind my screen, isolated from everyone else, and allow myself to waste my life away running around and hitting monsters with swords so I can hit stronger monsters, deceiving myself to believe that it's acceptable and that it's "fun".

I don't know if any of what I'm saying makes sense, but it really depresses me to think we've evolved this far only to become mindless consumers. We're wasting our lives for stuff that we'll never need and the most depressing part is that most people will never realize that. Technology is making us devolve as a society. I mean, I remember a story that someone was killed for their iPod. Their iPod. Something went wrong if people can start believing that an iPod is worth more than a human life.

Of course I'm generalizing, but that's what it looks like to me. And it can only get worse from here. So many of us are wasting our lives away because of technology. I don't know. Sometimes I wish I could have been born before all of this. I'd rather be in the jungle risking my life everyday for food than living this sedated half-life. I've thought about this a lot recently and I wonder if there's a point to living this way. I feel like I'm already dead.

I didn't type all of this to vent my insomnia-induced emo whining. But I want to know. I want to know if other people have noticed the same things I have, or if I missed something; something that could explain why it's acceptable for us to be living wasted and shallow lives.

TheHatchetman May 2 2007 3:01 AM EDT

While I do see your point, I *must* ask, in what way are cell phones isolating? ;)

MissingNo May 2 2007 3:04 AM EDT

I was just using the cell phone as part of an example of how technology has turned us into mindless consumers worrying about stuff we honestly don't need.

TheHatchetman May 2 2007 3:07 AM EDT

I know, I just saw the wording and couldn't resist. :)

Flamey May 2 2007 3:13 AM EDT

I thought that, Hatch.

No need for explanation though. iPods, these are funny things. The Idea behind a portable audio device is bloody genius, IMO. I mean look at it, who here can tell me that music is bad and that they don't like it? Everyone listens to music, everyone can share that at least.

Though the way things look, things are too valuable. iPods shouldn't be anything, they shouldn't be stolen, they shouldn't be killed for. The same for all the other gizmos kids carry around in their pockets.

If you really want to be picky, we don't need technology at all to survive. All we need is food, water and shelter, basically.

Life isn't all about technology, people get out, they don't go on the computer that much. I do this, I find it hard to have time to play CB and another game I play, two games thats it. The main reason for me being socially active, is having a girlfriend, we do stuff at least once every weekend and talk on the phone heaps in the evenings.

Getting out once in a while is good, it's a good change from the computer screen and all its wonderful glory. Just going anywhere, the park with friends, kick a ball around. Goto the beach with friends, goto the Movies. I know it doesn't seem that social, but you still talk a lot before and after the movie.

You can say that, that is technology, but it gives us something to talk about and they are enjoyable. Not exactly isolation from society.

A point that popped into my head would be that IM doesn't isolate you. This is a crap point, IM isn't social, talk to someone in person or even on the phone, they're so much different on IM and its behind a computer screen. You're not socially active even if you spend 14 hours talking to people on the internet.

Not directed at you, not directed at anyone, just my opinion, not sure if it agrees with you or not. I guess its a mix of both.

MissingNo May 2 2007 3:13 AM EDT

Also, I realize entertainment is entertainment. But it's gotten out of hand. Our whole lives revolve around entertainment. To me, and I think a lot of people, entertainment can basically be summed up as being preoccupied to pass time. But what we forget though, that this time is our lives. And all we want to do is make more of it go away.

Flamey May 2 2007 3:16 AM EDT

I think entertainment is a good pastime, call me stupid. But entertainment is way better with friends. Bluntly put everything is better with friends. Life is way better with friends.

MissingNo May 2 2007 3:26 AM EDT

My original point though, is that at some point in time, technology substituted "happiness" with "stuff". My dad is a prime example. He's constantly worried about wearing expensive name-brand clothes. The newest technology. That expensive Lexus in the garage that barely gets driven everywhere because of the fear that it'll get damaged. One day, I'd really like to just ask him if all this stuff makes him happy.

It's the same concept as presented in the movie Fight Club (which I believe did open my eyes). The main person knew there was something missing and they weren't happy, but what did they do about it? They replaced the missing hole with stuff. Things. Unnecessary things. That's how I view our society.

MissingNo May 2 2007 3:45 AM EDT

To clarify, entertainment isn't a bad thing. Hell, it can even be necessary. But we as a society have taken it too far. Hell, it's even become the new standard. Go to college, get a good job. Why? Because then you can buy lots of stuff. But really, do we need that much entertainment? I don't think so. I think it's pretty scary that some people can use half of their lives so they can get things to distract them from the other half of their lives.

AdminG Beee May 2 2007 4:02 AM EDT

If you decide to go all Zen on the world - can I have your stuff? My iPod is the smaller 5G and I could really do with an update ;)

I do know where you're coming from though. Technology is just so darn convenient however.
I was reading a broadsheet yesterday about the upcoming elections in Scotland and when looking for comments from a particular candidate I found myself looking for the mental "Ctrl F" button... Sad really.

MissingNo May 2 2007 4:08 AM EDT

Shrug. I guess no one sees it the way I do. Yes, technology can be good, but it can also be very bad, which is why I used the word "paradox". You guys can make all the jokes you want, but honestly, haven't you ever wondered if we're wasting our lives by living this way? Someone must have once thought about it, hence the cliche "Money can't buy happiness."

QBJohnnywas May 2 2007 4:18 AM EDT

If you want to see how cell phones can be isolating walk down any London street. People glued to their phones not watching where they are walking, not interacting with the people around them, ignoring traffic as they cross the road because they're reading a text, talking loudly on the bus or train with conversation that only seems to exist to let the person on the end of the phone know they're on the bus or the train.

The biggest problem with technology is the way you can almost not live your life without it. A friend of mine doesn't own a computer. But, increasingly, he is finding it difficult to do things without one; booking holidays, dealing with banks, buying tickets for concerts. His daughter is only 5 and starting school and he has been told that she will need a computer for certain homework assignments in a couple of years.

The other problem I find with technology is the way the computer companies make their technology obsolete after a while. You cannot invest money in technology and then keep it for much longer than three or four years before you need to upgrade. I bought one of the new Ipod Nanos at Christmas for my wife. We have a Mac G4; the OS was a couple of years old. However the Nano wouldn't work with the old OS, if we wanted to use it we had to buy the newest OS. Of course we bought the new OS, because it's not just the new Nano that doesn't work with the old OS...

AdminNightStrike May 2 2007 4:36 AM EDT

Have you read Player Piano yet, Opvines?

I feel weird asking that in spite of Kurt's recent passing.

MissingNo May 2 2007 5:01 AM EDT

No. I haven't. Can you tell me what it's about without telling me anything about the actual story? I might check it out..

And JW, the reason that happens is because we let it happen. We become mindless consumers and give the companies all the power. Then it becomes so ingrained into society that people start to think they need it to function. Then it becomes a preoccupation. We're too busy trying to get the latest "thing" because we "need" it that we don't have time to think about things, like, say, oh, if we're really happy, and replace happiness with the item. But then, oh wait, a new thing comes out, which means we're gonna be preoccupied with getting it now. And so on and so on. And by the time we realize it, our whole lives may just have been spent for the endless journey to acquire stuff.

QBJohnnywas May 2 2007 5:19 AM EDT

Yeah, if there wasn't a market for technology then companies wouldn't push it. It's in their interest to encourage the 'need' to own.

But there are so many things you cannot do anymore without access to some kind of technology. For instance, I'm a musician. It's almost impossible to get a gig these days without technology getting in the way. "We'll give you a gig, you just have to send us a CD of your music"

Just to get a gig, playing live in front of people, (even acoustic gigs which require no more technology than an old acoustic guitar and your voice), requires you to go near recording equpment and getting your music onto cd.


People have always found ways of isolating themselves from everyone else. Technology is just the latest way of doing what man has always done. For instance does the phrase "lose yourself in a good book" mean anything to you? People need their own spaces and will always find ways to shut out the world. I personally believe that some people are just built that way and always have been.

Consumerism is newer, but isolation is as old as man.

And you said:

"And instead of being forced out to experience things that could help me grow as a person, I'm fully able to sit behind my screen, isolated from everyone else, and allow myself to waste my life away running around and hitting monsters with swords so I can hit stronger monsters, deceiving myself to believe that it's acceptable and that it's "fun"."

There's another side to that. Escapism is something people need. Because some people play games, watch films, read books to get away from the experiences that could help them grow. Some of those experiences aren't good to go through. Sometimes you need to get away from them.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that shallow lives aren't necessarily always lived because of shallow reasons.

MissingNo May 2 2007 6:19 AM EDT

Actually, that technology is good. It helps you do what you enjoy. I'm talking about the unnecessary things that we spend so much money on because we think it helps define us.

I don't agree with you there. A book usually requires you to think, where as an online game usually numbs any real thinking for hours and hours. Especially graphical MMORPGs. If you think about it, what are you really doing most of the time? Repetitively going around and hitting the same few buttons over and over to kill monsters.

I really do believe that technology is the problem of our mindless consumer-type thinking.

I agree with you that escaping some experiences can be good for you. Like I said before, entertainment is pretty much necessary. But as with most things, moderation is key. A lot of people don't just do it moderately, they are completely consumed by it. They don't just play a little to pass the time, they play significant portions of their life away. In Vietnam, there are even laws limiting how many hours of games adolescents can play on the computer. And like a year or two ago, a Korean couple's baby died because its parents went to play WoW for hours and hours at a cyber cafe and neglected their child. I am also one example of this. I used to play online games everyday. I'd get home from school, sit down, and play that game until I had to go to sleep. Wake up, do it all over again. And you know what? I thought it was fun. I thought it was okay to do what I did because I didn't realize that life is more than just passing time until you die. One day though, I realized that this was a pointless way to live, but I had spent a good portion of my childhood running around slashing monsters. I still play games, but I try to use moderation.

I also know a lot of kids in my high school that do what I used to do and some are even into it more than I was. And although I can't predict the future, it's very likely that some of these people will continue this lifestyle even after high school, for a long time after even.

QBJohnnywas May 2 2007 6:43 AM EDT

You're right, I wasn't comparing books and games directly. A book requires some use of imagination, creative thought. Whereas games tend to give you the things to think about.

That's the other big downside of technology based entertainment; it makes, no it requires you to be passive. It's a one way street a lot of the time.

That's why the games I've involved myself in over the years are multiplayer or ones with communities; it's the interaction...

MissingNo May 2 2007 6:46 AM EDT

And the whole thing with online gaming was geared towards my age group and doesn't really represent society as a whole.

But the problem with mindless consumerism is very similar and does represent society in general. Feel like there's something missing from your life? Buy more stuff. Feeling depressed? You can fix that with more stuff! Didn't fix it? Well, just keep buying more stuff and eventually you'll be happy! It's an obsession. To put it simply as I can, I think it's a distraction. As long as there's more stuff we can buy, we don't need to think about any of deeper things, like... if we're truly happy.

QBJohnnywas May 2 2007 6:53 AM EDT

It's a crutch for a lot of people, like alcohol or drugs. People use it to fill the hole. But it's a temporary fix. And, don't think that people not involved in the consumerism, living more 'real' lives are any happier. Everyone always wants something they don't or can't have. The grass is always greener. In my own experience looking for happiness in what you have, in the life you have is the way. Most people are blind to, and blinded to by the society around you, the fact that you can be happy with what you've got.

In the end though, you have to make the change with yourself. If others follow then that's good, but you can't change them.

MissingNo May 2 2007 7:16 AM EDT

Yeah. You're right. It is better to not know if you're not happy. I realized the stuff I own does not make me happy. And it makes me depressed to know that I am not happy but I have no idea why I feel incomplete. Heh. Maybe I'm just bipolar. I was fine yesterday, but during the night the depression hit me and was the reason I started this thread.

Zoglog[T] [big bucks] May 2 2007 8:27 AM EDT

We may not need electrical technology as part of our survival but we would fail as society if it all disappeared one day.
Obviously you can't just say that it is technology as anything which has been invented is a technological advance, eg. the wheel or even the hammer.
We have become so used to these electrical devices that if they all suddenly disappeared we wouldn't be able to survive. How difficult would you find it if one day your kettle and microwave, right down to your entertainment and communication devices suddenly were gone?
I know I couldn't cope with my hectic life bein disrupted for a simple cup of tea, water being generally unclean again (they need electricity to run the sewage works) and being forced to take a steam train simply to go the 180miles back up to the midlands for a week.

Slashundhack [We Forge Our Own Stuff] May 2 2007 8:50 AM EDT

Geez vines they were singing the same song in the 60's caused the back to the land movement . Heck the bronze age probably had the " Walden pond" types to ! Every generation sees "This Truth" and maybe it's getting more and more true . Or maybe not and your navel "Does not need contemplation" ! Life is ...Eat ...Sleep.... Die ! So cease the day ,a bottle or your member . Suit your self ,Live ,Love and cast a clean shadow because that's all you really leave .

Admindudemus [jabberwocky] May 2 2007 10:03 AM EDT

technology can free us or bind us. it has been this way for a while though, nothing new here. it was television for those that came before us and radio previous to that. it is pretty much for individuals to decide if the will use gadgets as a tool or be controlled by them.

if it doesn't free up time to do things you really want to do then the technology may just be using you.

Unappreciated Misnomer May 2 2007 11:32 AM EDT

i understand what you say PS, i took feel like i have been a consumer whore(what the stuff i dont need and realized that this crap wasnt worth my hard earned money). i buy lots of games play them once,beat then and then put them away where ive never played them again, but always thinking that i will used them again SNES games are really old now. i agree also that we are wasting our time playing games like wow, me personally i have an adventurer/explorer enthusiasm about unknown terrain and that when i played wow or ES:Oblivion i like to explore the world the most. learning the terrain and what not. but it doesnt make a lick of difference to the real world what im doing in a game. the real world is essentially boring cause everthing geographical has been explored, im just buying time for a space age ill never see.

MissingNo May 2 2007 2:34 PM EDT

I don't think the real world is boring. I think the real world has more to offer than any MMORPG ever could. I'm talking about the real real world, natural and all, not just our perceived concept of the "real world" which might be limited to working at a dead-end job you hate in a polluted city with a high crime rate. Sure, you don't have spells and stuff in the real world, but the time you spend investing to make a character stronger, you could be making yourself stronger. And if you really want to explore the terrain, you're free to. David Henry Thoreaux decided that he was going to live out in the wilderness for 2 years. At least I think it was 2 years. Or you could be like that guy on Ripley's Believe It Or Not who got a full body tattoo and whiskers attached to his face, making him look like a tiger. From what I understood when I watched it, he runs around naked all day living in a forest, living an almost entirely natural lifestyle.

Revs May 3 2007 4:06 PM EDT

I remember hearing a university sociologist chair speak on this topic a number of years ago. He was talking about a gathering of peers in Florida where they were discussing the question of what drives civilizations. And the answer was simple. Great ideas. Great ideas drive one civilization over another. The Romans had roads, the Greeks had reason, etc. They also discussed what the last great idea was. And the answer was consumer capitalism. Like or not, it is currently consumer capitalism that drives the USA economy ever outward. And it's not isolated to the US/UK or the like. It's everywhere. Global economy. They're putting Starbucks coffee in Ethiopia now, for example, McDonalds in Bagdad, not to mention the far reach of the global market via the world wide web.

The problem is, this was the last great idea (according to the sociologist symposium), and we are all waiting for the next great idea. Until someone comes up with the next great idea, we are stagnating with the current one. So for society to survive, the world economies must survive. And you are a good member of society to the extent that you support, participate, and consume. At least that's what they want you to believe. And great amounts of money and research go into what drives people to buy. Producing anxiety over missing out, etc.

All that said, my thoughts are that we can be good citizens and participate in the philosophy of lack. That there is never enough or never such thing as contentment. Or we can pursue our own great ideas. One of those being the freedom of man over consumer slavery. Regardless, it is our own choice to participate in the consumer line or not. But the fact that we are free to choose not to, opens up a world of possibilities. The best of which, arguably, is creativity. ;)

QBsutekh137 May 3 2007 4:43 PM EDT

Pop, I tihnk the spectrum is little wider and more continuous than you are giving it credit for. Yes, there are always the "sheeple"...folks who think they "need" something. Even further, there are those who think they are ENTITLED to it. Yes, it's annoying. It's also been around forever, and I don't think technology really has anything to do with it, per se.

The spectrum also involves people who really USE the tech. Example: I am annoyed to no end by people who drive and talk on a cell phone at the same. I try to never do so, myself. But I can understand someone like a salesman whose livelihood depends on that 100% uptime. One car phone call could net a juicy commission. Could the salesman work smarter instead of harder, and keep the phone off in the car? Probably. But I wouldn't call that particular use of technology "bad".

Then there's me... I used to play games on a computer, then I stopped the rat race. I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would spend money on PC upgrades and video card increases when my consoles do just file for 200-300 bucks every 3-4 years. But that doesn't mean the other folks are crazy...they have the cash and they spend it. I don't want the complexity, so I don't spend that money.

I used to be ga-ga for gadgets. A new gadget was exicting and wonderful. Now it just seems like work. I want things to be usable right away and don't want to have to mess round. In a way, that has made my tastes simpler.

I agree with your worries about isolation and tech-dependency, etc. I just wouldn't conclude with "is it acceptable to be living wasted and shallow lives"...that's opinion. I think all reality TV is garbage, and it saddens me that it is popular. But it would be mighty elitist of me to call everyone who watches such pap as "shallow". Other's might think me playing Guitar Hero is shallow. It's just opinion.

The real question, to me, isn't whether or not people are being shallow. I just want to know if people are thinking for themselves any more. And if self-thought is changing, in what direction is it changing and how fast? I am an individualist first and foremost. Mediocrity and entropy are strong pulls -- maybe technology is just allowing us to get there quicker? :\
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