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  • Writer's pictureMia Van Rensburg

Technology's Effect on Society

Updated: Nov 25, 2018

Mia Janse van Rensburg

There are several factors in our society that account for our ever-changing environment. Technological advance has perhaps had the greatest effect on the way in which people live their every day lives. The abundance of technologies that have been made available to the masses has enabled people to live more convenient lives, yet it has come with a heavy cost.

In his essay “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, Nicholas Carr discusses the particular effects that the popular search engine “Google” and other technologies have on the way individuals think and act. Carr evaluates the negative effects that technology has had on him personally through discussing how “[i]mmersing [him]self in a book or lengthy article used to be easy” (332), yet with instant access to an overwhelming amount of information through the Internet, his “concentration starts to drift after two or three pages” (332). Carr also references Bruce Friedman, a blogger who “described how the internet has altered his mental habits” (333), by stating that “[I] now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print.” (qtd. In Carr 333).

Carr sums up the negative views regarding technology through his analogy: “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski”(333). Carr clearly believes that the Internet has caused individuals to be less productive in their quests to gather information, which has affected our society

negatively, because people do not seem to care for traditional research and learning now that modern technologies have been implemented in their lives.

However, Carr presents a powerful argument through providing a balanced viewpoint and presenting a counterargument. He states “The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes” (332) and that “[t]he advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many” (333). Carr presents a powerful argument by analyzing both the positive and negative impacts of technology on society. He does not deny the convenience that the Internet and “Google” has brought to our every day lives, but based on studies in the United Kingdom ,he concludes that technology causes individuals to engage in ‘skimming activity’(qtd. In Carr 334) , instead of developing an in depth perspective on the topics they are researching and learning about.

Similarly, in her essay “How Computers Change The Way We Think,” Sherry Turkle examines the ways in which technological advances affect the mind. Turkle’s argument that computers have radically changed the way in which people process information is particularly powerful, because she examines several aspects of the technology industry and to which extent they alter every day thinking patterns and behavior. Turkle discusses the ways in which social media and other technology has changed matters of privacy, stating that the use of it “leaves electronic traces” (327) and that “professors find that students do not understand that in a democracy privacy is a right, not merely a privilege” (327).

She determines that privacy has become rare in the age of sharing most details about oneself on the Internet, which is one of the negative consequences of technological advancement. However, Turkle also discusses how technological inventions such as virtual reality creates, according to Erik Erikston “a time out or safe space for personal experimentation that is crucial for adolescent development” (327) which has a strikingly positive effect on a society. She argues that it is needed in “our dangerous world-with crime, terrorism, drugs and AIDS” (327), which “offers little in the way of safe spaces” (327).

It becomes clear that Turkle has a crtitical and skeptical view of PowerPoint. She argues that technology was previously used with the hopes of teaching individuals in childhood education to program. (328), yet in society today, “PowerPoint” is ironically one of the most frequently used forms of media and technology in classrooms. Turkle admits that technologies such as “PowerPoint” have greatly affected the corporate world, as it enables an abundance of information to be presented in a shorter and more efficient manner. She does however bring up that technology is not used to teach students “computer science or procedural thinking (328)” in classrooms, but it is rather used for teaching basic presentational skills, although Sherry Turkle provides a balanced argument that portrays both the positive and negative impacts of social media and technology. However, she primarily has a skeptical viewpoint on how technology has had impact in the ways in which people process information.

In a similar fashion, James Gleick discusses the affects of “Google” and technology in his essay “How Google Dominates Us.” He states that Google has taken over many parts of every day life, including the “world’s books and images” (353), “free email service” (353), and machine translation system called “Google Translate”(353). However, Gleick argues that although Google provides plenty of quality services, its main objective is to earn profit through advertising, even if it is at the cost of customer privacy. He states, “When information is cheap, attention becomes expensive” (354), which created Google’s incentive to profit by marketing, Gleick states, “Google’s business is not search but advertising.” More than 96 percent of its $29 billion in revenue last year came directly from advertising…” (354).

Gleick believes, “The advertiser is paying for a slice of your limited attention; our minds would otherwise be elsewhere” (356) which shows how consumers of Google products are in reality the products that result in the company’s profit. Gleick argues that advertisements geared towards personal preferences “provide reminders, sometimes startling, of how much a company knows about your inner self” (356) Gleick has a mostly negative viewpoint regarding Google. Although his argument does not provide much counter evidence, it remains clear and strong through use of data and evidence.

Neil Postman states that “every technology is both a burden and a blessing” (362), which can be applied to the arguments of Carr, Turkle, and Gleick. Although technology has become a positive part of every day life for many individuals, it still presents several drawbacks that have to be considered

Works Cited

Bloom, Lynn Z, and Louise Z. Smith, Eds. TheArlington Reader: Themes for Writers.4th

ed.Boston:Bedford/St Martins,2014. Print.

Carr, Nicholas.”Is Google Making Us Stupid,” Bloom and Smith 331-339.

Gleick, James.”How Google Dominates Us,” Bloom and Smith 350-359.

Postman,Neil.”The Judgement of Thamus,” Bloom and Smith 360-371.

Turkle, Sherry.“How Computers Change the Way We Think.”Bloom and Smith 325-330.

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