A Tech Lover’s Luddian Emotions

I have been conflicted for a long time with technology, and hype. Technology is wonderful in that it gives us productivity or efficiency, but what are do we trade for them? It isn’t always free, we still have to put in something, and maybe we don’t even see all the resources that are devoted to the process.

I have a tendency to feel Luddian about things, but it comes from knowledge not ignorance. Most things have merits, that, I can’t deny, but it also has somewhat hidden ramifications for it’s use. Cellphones. RSS. Search Engines. Social Networks. All have their positives, but simultaneously negatives.

We have reached a point of decentralization, so that we can do almost anything, anywhere; we’ve also managed to place a shackle upon ourselves, that is virtually always there, (or always virtually there.) We have created a world that we can’t walk away from, because it is so easy to connect and get drawn in. We can check the news, our portfolios, our relationships with family and friends, using the technology at our fingertips via text, photos, video, audio all on a device that can be kept in our pocket. At this point we have more knowledge that is more ubiquitous than at any other time, but with it we’ve become forgetful.

I’m stupid. I can’t give you a single friends phone number off the top of my head. My grammar and spelling is often atrocious, without spellcheck. I often have to check definitions because I only have half a clue of what a word might mean. I can find information, but it’s often not of the quality that is necessary, for what I want.

We gave up our freedom, of being unavailable for evenings, weekends, weeks, in order to always have access to the outside world, with cellphones. Then we gave up our freedom to not be bombarded by news, and information. How much of the news you see every day, has an immediate or profound effect on you? Noise is growing faster than the valuable pieces, and search is succumbing to it.

Last night, I spent 2 hours searching for an article I had read about the creation of Zork. Unfortunately, the article was mainly on the MDL language, with Zork  only as an example. Searching for it, Google gave me nothing but junk. Stumbleupon and Delicious  gave me nothing. I only lucked out in that I had shared the article with Friendfeed, and Friendfeed’s search was actually functional. It shouldn’t take that long to find what you’re looking for. That was 2 hours I could have spent actually doing something, by the end I was exhausted, and didn’t even really want to do what I had started the search for.

Everything comes with the sacrifice, but it seems that I’m having to sacrifice more and more to gather the value from all the systems that I use. I broke away from my cell phone last year, it was great for setting up the occasional meeting with friends, and in cases of emergency, but over all it was just a nuisance. I like to escape from constant distraction and information, because it’s what I deal with on a day to day basis. Somewhere I feel that we lost our way, but at the same time I’m damn amazed at what is possible now. I stand torn, in what I know, and my opinions on what I know.

This was written on January 21st, 2011.