Life Versus Machine: 3 Essays on How Technology Is Shaping Us

Here are some super interesting / mind-blowing / mildly depressing essays on technology and its (mostly negative) effects on us and the environment. Go read these. Now. And get a blanket and a drink (and a fireplace, real or virtual if you can) because you’re in a for a ride.

I Talked to the Cassandra of the Internet Age

In 1997, Mr. Goldhaber helped popularize the term “attention economy” with an essay in Wired magazine predicting that the internet would upend the advertising industry and create a “star system” in which “whoever you are, however you express yourself, you can now have a crack at the global audience.” He outlined the demands of living in an attention economy, describing an ennui that didn’t yet exist but now feels familiar to anyone who makes a living online. “The Net also ups the ante, increasing the relentless pressure to get some fraction of this limited resource,” he wrote. “At the same time, it generates ever greater demands on each of us to pay what scarce attention we can to others.”

(Incidentally, the “attention economy” is why I think the ancient rhetorical canon of “style” is so important to understand today.)

From Tech Critique to Ways of Living

But the number of people who are even open to following [the ‘Standard Critique of Technology,’ or STC, re: how technology is messing us up] is vanishingly small. For all its cogency, the SCT is utterly powerless to slow our technosocial momentum, much less to alter its direction. Since Postman and the rest made that critique, the social order has rushed ever faster toward a complete and uncritical embrace of the prescriptive, manipulatory technologies deceitfully presented to us as Liberation and Empowerment. So what next?

One of my key takeaways: We are stupid if we think that the fight to preserve our environment can be separated from the fight against manipulative digital technology. And that is one of many reasons this question is more urgent than ever.

Life Versus the Machine

The collapse of the industrial economy is, in all likelihood, the only remaining way to prevent the mass destruction of life on Earth.

Well, that’s extremely bleak (and spoiler, so is the rest of the article). The author might be doomed to become another Cassandra, like Mr. Goldhaber in the first article above. And yet it is also refreshingly sober, like a cold splash of water in the face. Sometimes that’s just what a person who’s obsessed with the latest Instagram story needs.

Image Credit: TechCrunch