being “alive enough”

What follows is from an interview of Sheryl Turkle about her book “Alone Together.”

Every technology becomes our partner, because we make it, and then it makes and shapes us in return, and it takes a little time for us to see how that process of mutual unfolding goes. Every technology gives us the opportunity to say, Is this technology serving our human values? And if not, the opportunity to make corrections. This book is meant to be part a conversation to make corrections. I think there are ways in which we’re constantly communicating and yet not making enough good connections, in a way that’s to our detriment, to the detriment of our families and to our business organizations.

Do you think people will listen to her because she’s from MIT?  The interviewer asks her later on:

You write in your book that we today seem to view authenticity with the same skittishness that the Victorians viewed sex.

For some purpose, simulation is just as good as a real. Kids call it being “alive enough.” Making an airline reservation? Simulation is as good as the real. Playing chess? Maybe, maybe not. It can beat you, but do you care? Many people are building robot companions; David Levy argues that robots will be intimate companions. Where we are now, I call it the “robotic moment,” not because we have robots, but because we’re being philosophically prepared to have them. I’m very haunted by these children who talk about simulation as “alive enough.” We’re encouraged to live more and more of our lives in simulation.

You mention how when people see the little red light on their BlackBerry, indicating a message has arrived, they feel utterly compelled to grab it. Do you personally experience that compulsion?

I recognize it with my email. Somebody said of email, “It’s the place for hope in life.” It reminds me of how in Jane Austen, carriages are always coming, you’re waiting, it could be Mr. Bingley’s invitation to a ball. There’s some sense that the post is always arriving in Jane Austen. There’s something about email that carries the sense that that’s where the good news will come. I did a hysterical interview with an accountant about why he felt so strongly about his texts. He said he might get a Genius award! I said, “I don’t think they give those to accountants.” And he said, “But you know what I mean.” He was trying to express that anything could happen on email. Anything could happen! I try to figure out what it is that this little red light means to people. I think it’s that place for hope and change and the new, and what can be different, and how things can be what they’re not now. And I think we all want that.

I have nothing to add except that I’m going to walk away from my computer now and bake some bread.  Nothing more alive than that!

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