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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Turkle takes a more pessimistic turn

Meanwhile, Sherry Turkle has a new book out. Here's an interesting article about it in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Turkle has previously been enthusiastic about new technologies, including social networking; it seems that she's having some second thoughts. This ties in nicely with our discussion the other day of David Levy's Love and Sex with Robots (the article reveals some rather deep disagreements between Turkle and Levy).

My general bias is that I'm tired of the nay-sayers and doomsayers about new technology. But that doesn't mean that everything in the electronic garden is rosy. I'm not going to go around calling for legal prohibitions left, right, and centre, but we do need to put some thought into the implications of new technologies and how they are used.

From my own viewpoint, computer technology and all that goes with it have been unalloyed goods. Without this stuff, we'd live in much more insular worlds - I know I would. I'd have been hamstrung over the last 15 years or so without the internet. I'm certainly not going to minimise the enormous gains. But Turkle makes clear that that's not her point, either.

1 comment:

Jambe said...

There's an air of technophobia about that article. The word cyborg is used pejoratively, for example.

I do think she has a point about managing attention. I'm also inclined to believe that technology often detrimentally fractures attention (I hear anecdotal "parent on the cellphone" and "xbox as babysitter" problems very often and often see such things firsthand).

I see her point about robots as being one of attention management, mostly. We (as a society) need to pay attention to... what we're paying attention to (and to why). Like you, I don't mind if people want to delude themselves about the humanity or "lovability" of a machine, but I do very much mind if we normalize such behavior!

You can replace "robot" with "pornography" here and have much the same argument. I don't mind if certain people don't want meaningful interpersonal relationships and want to pleasure themselves with pornography, but I do mind that such behavior has been normalized and the pornography in question engenders a terrible patriarchal and misogynist view of sexuality and gender.

I mention pornography only because I had a discussion about it yesterday and was surprised at how analogous much of it was with the broader concepts mentioned in the linked article.