You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Virtual World vs. Reality’ tag.
Christine Rosen makes a good point here in an article entitled “Awe and the Machine.” I do find it lamentable that most of us understand very, very little about the science at work behind our technological innovations. More significantly, it is regrettable that people are so ready to sacrifice direct experience for virtual reality. At the end of the day, virtual experience is only so fulfilling to the human soul. It is real people, places, and experiences that affect on a much more profound level. Emphasis is my own:
“In the early age of machines, they inspired awe by proving capable of doing what man could never do alone (such as power an entire factory), or what we once believed only man could do (play chess). Now we expect our machines to do just about everything for us, from organizing our finances to writing our grocery lists. Our machines not only ease the mundane burdens of daily life (cooking, cleaning, working), but also serve, increasingly, as both our primary source of entertainment and the means for maintaining intimate relationships with others. Henry Adams’s dynamo has been replaced by Everyman’s iPod, and awe has given way to complacence and dependence. Your computer’s e-mail program doesn’t inspire awe; it is more like a dishwasher than a dynamo. Nineteenth-century rhapsodies to the machines that tamed nature, such as the steam engine, have given way to impatience with the machines that don’t immediately indulge our whims. The decline in humility toward our machines comes at a time when we know almost nothing about how or why they work. Although overwhelmed by its power, Henry Adams nevertheless had a basic understanding of how the dynamo operated. Most of us know very little about how our laptop computers run or how to repair our washing machines. Today we are less likely to feel awe in the presence of our machines than we are to experience what historian Jacques Barzun called “machine-made helplessness.” This, too, is a form of blind faith, like the people who, devotedly following the instructions of their car’s GPS device, drive right off a hill, all the while certain that this must be impossible — how could their perfectly calibrated machine be wrong? The awe experienced by earlier generations was part of a different worldview, one that demonstrated greater humility about many things, not least of which concerned their own human limits and frailties. Today we believe our machines allow us to know a lot more, and in many ways they do. What we don’t want to admit — but should — is that they also ensure that we directly experience less. Updating your Facebook page is a lot easier than venturing out into the world to confront a dynamo, as Adams did. But it is also, in the end, likely to be a lot less awe-inspiring.”
Friends don’t let friends get Facebook…
The following excerpt is from The Dotcomrade: The Many Faces of Online Friendship, an article by Brian Boyd on The New Atlantis:
“What does it mean, then, to be on someone’s “Buddy List,” or to be “friended,” by contrast to what it means to be a friend? And will the rising generation be able to tell the difference? Our wisest sage on the subject is Aristotle, who, in the Nicomachean Ethics, distinguishes three main types of human friendships. The lower two forms, those based on utility and pleasure, are rooted in what each expects to receive from the other; when one is no longer useful or pleasing to the other, the friendship almost surely will fade. By contrast, “the complete form of friendship is that between people who are good and alike in virtue,” where the emphasis is not upon what is gained, but rather upon the common love of the good. While online interaction can undoubtedly form and further friendships of utility (mutual survival) and pleasure (mutual interest), can it promote friendships of mutual virtue? This is surely a question that social scientists cannot fully answer, but one recent study might shed a little light on the subject. “Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks Over Two Decades,” published in the June 2006 American Sociological Review, presents data showing that Americans in 2004 had on average smaller discussion networks—that is, a smaller number of confidants with whom they “discuss important matters”—than when surveyed in 1985. According to the study, “Many more people talk to no one about matters they consider important to them in 2004 than was the case two decades ago” (emphasis added). Those surveyed in 2004 reported, on average, two “core confidants,” down from three in 1985. Why then—when the flourishing of today’s tools of communication have enabled an explosion of sociability—have the ranks of our closest confidants been diminished? Various interpretations tempt our judgment: Does the “self-creation,” or distortion, made easy by online anonymity and customizable avatars damn us to lose (as Yeats put it) “the heart-revealing intimacy / That chooses right” without which we will “never find a friend”? Does youth culture’s cry, “If you’re not on MySpace, you don’t exist,” reveal a generation of Berkeleyan idealists in the making, to whom “to be is to be perceived”? Or, as Ann Hulbert suggests in a recent article in the New York Times Magazine, does such data imply we are simply making better Aristotelian distinctions between friends—“a stark testament that we value a deep bond when we find it and aren’t fooled when we don’t”? The authors of the study avoid any far-reaching conclusions. But the data almost speaks for itself: Since 1985, the discussion networks of Americans have become “smaller, more densely interconnected, and more centered on the close ties of spouse/partner” even as the Internet has increased our access to a wider, more diverse, more dispersed array of social bonds. We seem to be losing confidants even as we gain an online portfolio of virtual “buddies”—living out the proverb “a friend to many is a friend to none.” In this age in which “friend” has become a verb, the most elevated kind of friendship seems ever harder to sustain.”