Question Forum 2

Question 1: (Chapter 10)
Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) believes that technological advancement leads to ecological loss and stifles human freedoms through the perpetuation of civilization (200). In keeping with this, he accepts that we should escape technological use for three loosely paraphrased reasons: one, the technium demands servitude if you use any part of it; two, technology never releases what is in its hold; and three, we have no choice of what technology to use in the long run (203). In what way are these views relative to Kelly’s own conception of the technium?

Question 2: (Chapter 11)
As Kelly makes known throughout this chapter, the Amish “don’t want to stop progress, [they] just want to slow it down” in order to fully evaluate the costs to their community (via four requirements listed here—>) (225-6). They actively try new technologies but if it turns out that it affects their community negatively, then they surrender it for the betterment of the community. They know what they are missing out on in terms of technological advancement, and yet they willingly limit their choices in favor of an intensely communal experience, natural simplicity, and an increased sense of satisfaction in their own lives. In your own opinion, does this limitation of technology hinder their freedom? Do we lose anything by participating in the technium more freely? (Why do you think so?)

Question 3: (Chapter 12)
“[The] most beautiful human mind is still capable of murderous ideas” (246). Kelly believes that each technology inherently contains both faults as well as virtues, and that no amount of forethought can prevent this from occurring. As a result of this, Kelly appears to favor what he calls the “proactionary principle,” which promotes acceptance of new technologies so long as we continually assess their place in society, prioritize risks proportionately, remedy harms caused, and redirect rather than ban “dubious technologies” (255-7). Do you think that this approach of testing technologies “in action, by action” is suitable, or could there be unforeseen faults from this process as well?

Question 4: (Chapter 10)
Kelly questions why we continue to gravitate towards technology if it is so rotten. He states that according to a definition of addiction ("Needing more to be satisfied less" pg 213), we are addicted to technology. We are entranced by new, shiny things and we always want the latest product. "We have a compulsive obsession with the technium as a whole." Do you agree with this statement, considering everything that is included in the technium?

Question 5: (Chapter 11)
Kelly says that the Amish use but not own technology. One can argue that they do not have as much dependence on technology because they don't have ownership to it - that they use it in moderation. They are, undoubtedly, linked to the technium through their usage as well as their staples - doctors, clothes, tools. Is there much of a difference between those that use technology and the Amish if they use it regularly (ex: the automobile, phone)? Are they as separate from us as we make them out to be?

Note: For those with eBooks, the page numbers in the hardcopy book run from 191-216, 217-238, and 239-265; this should help you to gauge approximately where in each chapter to find the references above.

Answer to Question 3
Brooks Tiffany

I believe the “proactive approach” is suitable in almost all cases with a few exceptions. The exceptions are those cases in which a catastrophic threat can easily be perceived early on before the technology is “released” such as certain nanotechnology. I don’t think we need to “wait and see” the secondary effects of what kind of dangers nanotechnology presents – we already know what can happen (worst case our extinction). Perhaps we should have a special version of the proactive approach for these types of things where try to slow it down and come up with as many contingencies and countermeasures as possible at different stages during the development and release of the new technology. I guess what I am suggesting for these exceptions is that we should essentially use a very similar proactive approach but slow it down much much more in certain cases. Even with the normal proactive approach, it still sounds like Kelly is saying we should just charge ahead with the process no matter what but I think moving even the slightest bit too quickly with some of these GRIN technologies could = game over, man.

Answer to Question 4
Samantha Pedersen

I completely agree; we are absolutely addicted to technology. And if, for a moment, we start to question this addiction, advertisements of the latest and greatest distract us and make us forget. At least one person in my family has an iPod from any given generation. We purchase them for different things—my mom needed an IPod nano so she could run, my dad needed an IPod shuffle for the same purpose, and my brother wanted an IPod touch to watch movies. Each time a new generation if IPod came out, inevitably one of them would purchase a new device. The first one was still in working condition, but the promise of faster and better lured them in, even if that change was miniscule.

Even with tools, we want the best—whatever will get the job done the fastest, or save us the most money in the end. Why keep the shovel you have when you can buy one that will get rid of the snow in half the time? We always want more than what we have. As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side.

Answer to Question 2
Jonathan Roberts

We see this same skepticism with technology among older generations of our own culture as we do in the case of the Amish. My parents finally both have iPod touches, a full 5 years after I had my first one. They were skeptical towards it, which is the same reason my father's personal computer still runs Windows XP. Both my parents have dual-monitor PCs at work running (nearly caught up to advancement) Windows 7, but only because their IT departments give them these to work with. Does this mean that, like the Amish, they're less free? Not at all. It comes down to free will and determining whether they care about the next best thing. I do; I downloaded iOS7 the 2nd day it was out.

In the same way, though, we don't freely accept the newest technology. Sometimes cost is prohibitive, other times it just doesn't seem worthwhile to get something new and shiny when the last shiny thing hasn't lost its luster. We aren't less free from being a little "Amish" (pardon a complete lack of political correctness), but rather being compassionate to the same ideals that the Amish have on this: to only accept technology if it's a benefit. We don't deprive ourself to the same extent or for the same reasons, but we certainly make the decision as well.

Answer to Question 2
Augusta Dean

In terms of freedom, the Amish are most concerned with being free of the outside world and all of the norms associated with it. That being said, the Amish are not limited in terms of technological freedom unless they don't agree with their Amish community's stance on technologies (in which case there may be a greater underlying issue).

Do we (non-Amish) lose anything by participating in the technium more freely? I think it's safe to say that in most cases, technological advancement has us more wound up than pretty much any other material subject. When it comes to things like the iPhone upgrade, the new Xbox, etc. these are all things that are obsessed over and become the topics of many of our conversations. Once they are released, the issue becomes even more extreme. We lose ourselves in these technologies for hours, days, even weeks without realizing that we've been completely shut off from human communication or interaction. Unlike the Amish, if a new technology is widely accepted and well liked, we obsess over it. We use it until we know and understand all of its capabilities and uses, and in many cases, ignore many other important aspects of life until we've reached that point. We essentially become “one” with the technology. To some, this may not necessarily be a bad thing. To me though, I believe it limits us in that we almost cannot free ourselves from the technology, therefore limiting our freedom itself.

Answer to Question 2
Matt Gilbert

The Amish people have established the lifestyle in which they choose to live in. It is a sacrifice that they have made, and we should respect them for that. Therefore, because they also respect one another, they do not even think about their limitation of freedom. However, we have heard stories of those (a part of the Amish) that have broken out to find a different life.

As for us, this is one of those questions that is simply a matter of opinion. Without technology, for me, I would not be able to conduct my life in the way that I want. Some may argue that cell phones now have a negative effect on the way humans interact with other humans (for example). Perhaps it has become to easy to "get out of" a situation with another human being; text messaging has had this effect. But technology gives us freedom. It is constantly evolving, and we are constantly evolving. To say technology has limited our freedom is absurd in my opinion. It has given us so many more tools and so many more opportunities to gain the upper hand in life. Where will we go next?

Answer to Question 2
Susan Nguyen

As Kelly states, the Amish purposely choose technology that distances them from the “outside” world. This is their idea of freedom – not having to constantly rely on new technology to keep up with the rest of the world because they don’t want to in the first place. They can selectively choose which technologies they want to accept and which ones they wish to disregard. Even after trying out a new technology and experiencing both its benefits and faults, the Amish can make a communal decision to ignore this technology if it does not further enrich their community.

While it is true that not all of us (non Amish) will flock towards the newest technology because it may be too expensive or unnecessary and we can certainly choose not to use a technology if we feel it doesn't benefit us, we don’t make a communal decision about it. I think our relationship with technology offers us a different form of freedom – we typically use technology as a means to bring us closer to the outside world (not just talking about your typical phone, but also things along the lines of Skype, Facetime, social media, etc.) because we are so afraid of getting left behind, whether it is in comparison to another country’s technological advancements or to a best friend having the shinier, newer phone that has more cool features. Compared to the Amish, freedom to us means constantly staying connected to the greater world beyond us. I don’t know if one is better than the other if both parties are happy with their relationship with technology and how they use it. So, do we feel more happy and fulfilled with our relationship to technology than the Amish? Does it even have to be a comparison?

Answer to Question 4
Hobs Towler

I really want to disagree if only because my personal brushes with technological addiction have differed slightly, at least in how I perceived them, with what we might consider normal. I don't acquire new technologies for the sake of new technologies; in that sense I am not a collector or an addict (aren't they the same?) looking for my fix in the next iPhone or the latest samsung smartphone. For the most part, I would have been content technologies that had existed from the time of my birth… if I lived in some sort of bubble.

But I don't live in a bubble, of course, and there are new technologies that I desire, and I desire them mostly because other people constantly tell me how cool X is and I look at Z device which I own and I am no longer satisfied with it. Perhaps that means that we are culturally addicted, as a single entity rather than the individual, to new technologies, which is certainly an idea that Kelly seems to promote in his book.

But why are we addicted to new technologies? Is it the next logical step in some form of competitive evolution? Kelly claims that the technium arose as a natural consequence of the evolutionary path that humanity has been taking for millennia. If that were the case, then technologies are our modern, civilized version of natural selection. Don't have the smartest smartphone or the fastest computer? You lose. Only, you don't die (well, special cases, yada yada…), but you might lose money or influence or friends.

When Wall street began using computers for financial transactions, real estate near to the NYSE suddenly became much more valuable than it ever had previously. Investors and traders discovered that having a faster computer and a faster connection virtually ensured that your program would be able to make trades before anybody else, but most importantly of all was your physical distance from the exchange's servers because the shorter your signal had to travel, the faster you could perform transactions, beating out the competition. There was, naturally, an arms race of sorts to see who could have the fastest computers and the shortest lines to the servers. Companies rolled out entirely new data lines to accomodate the demand generated by Wall Street. And the most enterprising in the arms race bought small offices near the exchange and loaded them up with servers specially suited to stock trading and then sold space on the servers to eager traders. And then suddenly the NYSE put a halt to the arms race by offering an even deal to anyone willing to invest: a single computer, identical to all the rest, connected to their server with a fixed length of cable for a fee. And suddenly the arms race was over because the competitive arena was completely leveled.

Answer to Question 2
Jessie Crom

I think that when we discuss "freedom" in this context of the class, we are referring to the idea of a person having the liberty of choosing which technologies we will participate in and which we won't. I think that the general Amish sentiment is that they will accept technology in the community, as long as it doesn't distract from God or faith or family or break up the community. Everything is done with the consequences and the question of how it will affect the community.
We do not participate in the technium freely, in fact it's not even close to freely. We participate in the technium in a way that is very forced, that is very calculated and controlled. For example, you can't get a smartphone without paying for a data plan. You also can't get a non-smartphone that is comparable in any way to a smartphone; there is no alternative. You either have a brick, or a smartphone. Inevitably, we all end up getting suckered into smartphones because they're just so darned pretty, but alsosurprise this is what Verizon wanted-we now have to pay for a data plan. In addition, once tainted, we will NEVER go back to "dumb phones".

The idea that the Amish can adopt a technology and then decide that it is too destructive to their way of life is the ultimate freedom. It is amazing to me that a community can make that decision as one group. Even today, you hear people (young people) say that Facebook is stupid, and that everyone hates Facebook.(Because everyone does hate Facebook!) However, you will also hear the phrase, "I hate it, it's terrible, but everyone has one so it's a necessary evil." So, the general consensus is that even though we all hate Facebook,(because it has been overrun by horny 30 year olds), we all still have a Facebook for the purposes of 1) being on Facebook so people remember that we exist 2) stalking other people who are on Facebook. It is pretty heinous to admit that you enjoy Facebook, but the idea of just deleting our Facebook because we truly don't enjoy it is one that is too much to handle. We gotta be on the grid—why? Because everyone is on the grid! Who are you if you're not on Facebook? How do you know what kind of music and movies you like if Facebook is not there to tell the world what kind of music and movies you like?

The idea of any technology being "a necessary evil" is completely lost on the Amish. They do not accept that any technology is absolutely pivotal, and they keep their needs and wants above what the rest of the world's needs and wants. I think we have been imprisoned by a bunch of technology that is simply unnecessary and that we hate. For example, automatic doors that open slowly are the most annoying thing imaginable, they never open at a pace that normal people walk at. I hate them. But they are in every store front ever. The idea is that they are there to help handicapped people get through the doors on their own. Do you know what Amish people would do? They would be decent humans and hold the door for that handicapped person, and keep the door as a regular door, because automatic doors are annoying.

Answer to Question 2
Erika Lower

In the case of the Amish relationship with technology, the "freedom" we're discussing has two very different definitions. To non-Amish people, the ability to upgrade and adopt new technology at will is freeing in and of itself, particularly when said technologies are designed to make life easier and more convenient for their users. I'd suspect that to many Americans, restricting the introduction of new technologies would be an infringement on personal freedoms and an offense to capitalism and the free market — after all, innovation should be encouraged and rewarded, and putting up blockades on introducing a technology seems antithetical to progress. If a technology turns out to be disruptive, it's a person's right to choose for themselves whether they want to engage with it, but government interference with the introduction of technology would generally be seen as unacceptable by a significant number of Americans today.

Amish society operates by a very different narrative, and both the relatively small size of the communities and their general deference to an established chain of command makes it much easier for the group as a whole to take a definitive stance on any given new technology. Because the bishop's word is law regarding the eventual adoption of new tech, and because the community is small enough and the social codes strongly enforced enough that rebelliously adopting a given technology anyway is highly unlikely, Amish communities have the ability to control new tech in a way that a more loosely-governed society would never be able to. The ability to reject disruptive technologies and sustain community values is, to the Amish, exactly the sort of freedom their lifestyle is meant to provide.

Answer to Question 4
Jonathan Wolfe

Yes, we are addicted to technology. This fact is obvious as I sit here watching television, checking websites on my computer, and glancing at my phone. I’m sure this truth is apparent to the rest of you as well. It’s clear as people walk around campus, sit in class, and wait in line with eyes glued to their phones that our devices have grabbed hold of our attention spans and refuse to let go. If you want to know how addicted you are to your phone, try not to check it for a few hours. The urges and anxieties you’ll feel to check your phone have been called “cravings” by addicts for years.

I think we keep going back to these allegedly rotten technologies for two reasons. For one, makes life easier. It can be debated whether technology increases our life satisfaction, but it is not debated whether technology makes life easier. Second, it is entertaining. We often find digital entertainment and reality more entertaining than the real world.

Perhaps we realize that technology brings new negative changes into our personal lives, but, like Kelly’s assessment of the technium as a whole, we find the positives outweigh the negatives.