Team 4 Synthesis

The points in the reading were interesting, but seemed overly general. Kelly focuses on one point to the exclusion of all else, especially in the way he was addressing technology. In class I worked to address the points Kelly was making about the function of technology in our society as well as his perception of the problems it raises. I asked the class whether they believed, as Kelly does, that the majority of new problems addressed by technology today were created by the previous wave of technology. For the most part, the class believed that technology does create and fix problems, but most new advances weren't to fix problems technology had created per se, but to improve the functionality of the technology. An example of this brought up in the discussion was the iPhone. Each successive generation is made faster, with a higher resolution camera and a improved screens or microphones. This tailoring is not because the previous iPhone created a problem so much as because we now have the ability to include such features, and people are willing to pay for them. Kelly also brought up the point computers, the internet and of social media. He believed the number of friends people are capable of having on Facebook was detrimental to our current understanding of friendship. While the class was initially divided on the issue, eventually they seemed to agree that while Facebook might exacerbate and lengthen periods of adolescent dependance and investment in shallower relationships, it did not cause it. People, especially our generation, view Facebook as a tool, not a model of a relationship, and as such it doesn't dictate who we view as friends or how we view our friends. The technology simply makes such behavior more apparent.
Kayla Vanderlyn

Group four focused on section two of the book, What Technology Wants, by Kevin Kelly. Our group divided the chapters up into sections with each person focusing on about 20 pages worth of material. Each person then devised questions and keywords that pertained to their specific section of the text.

For our class-led discussion, we went in order of the book to make it easier for the class to follow our progression through the chapters. Kayla began with talking about how technological advances were not necessarily new, but improving upon a previous technological development, and how technology is desensitizing us and allowing us to influence far more live than we are capable of caring about. This brought up some great discussions about how on Facebook, for example, we have mass amounts of friends that we may never speak to again or only know because they sent us a friend request. Most of us agreed that we have more friends on FB than we could ever have in real life, but others made a clear point of the use of this as a marketing tool once we get out of college.

The next two sections focused on the Amish and how they live technology free, or so they seem. The main argument here was that the Amish aren’t as independent from technology as we all seem to think, but there were good points made that because we live in an industrialized nation, it would be hard, if not impossible, to be completely devoid of technology.

The last section focused on how technology would affect the future of the human race and whether we will eventually program technology to the point where it makes decisions, or even thinks, on its own without any interaction from humans. This brought several different viewpoints to the table to discuss. The majority of us believed that technology will eventually achieve this level of non-human interaction, but we all had different estimates of when or how it would.

Barrett Sorrells

Michele Stulga
I was somewhat nervous about the group presentation—not because I didn’t feel our group was prepared, but because I’m not the best at public speaking. That being said, I think that my group posed questions that provoked some interesting issues.

The discussion opened with the topic of peace and whether or not the class felt that a technology could lead to world peace. More or less, the responses were on the negative side, claiming that people are people—we will always disagree, we will always fight, and we will never be able to achieve complete peace. But, what if we were to be genetically altered with a “peace gene?” In response to this, the class seemed to suggest that people wouldn’t want that solution because we would be getting rid of our inherent competitive nature, which could change what it is to be human entirely. I thought that this was a really interesting point. Would the only way to achieve “world peace” be to alter what it means to be human? I think that without competitiveness, we would lose that strong motivation to (at the end of the day) survive.

Eventually, the conversation switched to a discussion of the Amish. Kelly seemed totally gung-ho about the Amish lifestyle, so when I was reading it, I was more inclined to jump on board with what he was saying. Yes, of course, we should slow down the progress of technology! Yes, of course, we should try to become less dependent and less distracted by it, thus, cultivating human bonds instead. It wasn’t until the class discussion that I started to really see the other side. It’s not like the Amish are completely isolated from the technology—they definitely know a lot about it and still use a fair amount of it. I thought it was incredibly interesting that Jessie has worked with the Amish in the past, so she could bring an authoritative perspective on the matter. She claimed that, even though it went against their beliefs and values, there was a huge “black market” of technology. Even though it was morally reprehensible, the fact that it was taboo, drew people to desire it. Could trying to limit technology drive people to want it that much more? It’s an interesting thought.

Because our three chapters covered really different subjects, it was hard to fit in adequate discussions of each in our time. In other groups, the subjects really overlapped, so it seemed much easier to talk about everything all at once. So, because of that, I feel like my question about the “technium’s dilemma,” as Kelly put it, was neglected. No one really answered it for homework, and I didn’t get a chance to bring it up in class discussion. I would have liked to have gotten some feedback on ways in which the class thought it would be possible to maximize contentment by minimizing technology, while at the same time maximizing the choices in technology on a global level. Kelly seemed to suggest that it required a balance, and I wanted to poll the class on what they thought that balance could be.
Overall, I was pleased by the outcome of our presentation!

Elizabeth Haydu
It was very hard to coherently thread together the ideas that Kelly seems to grasp at in his book. Because we broke our information up, it was a little easier to fixate on one main point. For my part, I wanted to focus on the ideas of predictions and thinking, which were my two keywords. These words come up a lot in Kelly’s book and have frequently been discussed in class. They are probably some of the most unnerving ideas that Kelly has.

For predictions, Kelly talks about the good….and just the good. I tried to steer the discussion in such a way that would have people thinking about the highs and lows of immediately integrating new technology into our lives. I tried to take the ideas from my other group members about the Amish and use them as an example.

When it comes to technology thinking, we have been over this constantly in class and it always seems to be a point of contention among everyone whether or not technology will ever be able to “think” in the more traditional sense of the word. This is a point the Kelly drives into his readers with a gusto that could only match the winds on top of Everest and a point that I wanted to really revisit. As the class has continued over the semester, I have noticed that several of us (myself included) have waivered on what technology thinking could actually mean and what Kelly wants it to mean.

As a whole, I don’t believe many of the questions our groups posed to individuals in the class will ever be answered by the society as a whole. The idea of peace opened the discussion with the question of your use of technology being good or bad ending the class. Overall, Kelly provoked strong thoughts and feelings from the class and my questions and the group questions were meant to focus those feelings.