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Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.

Sherry Turkic. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011.

In the late twentieth century, Neil Postman, in his book Technopoly, contended that if we are not vigilant in our understanding and use of technology there will come a point where we will be enslaved by it. At the dawn of the new millennium, MIT professor Sherry Turkle, in her book Alone Together (the third volume in a trilogy that explores the relationship between human beings and technology), makes a similar argument.

Turkle maintains that while texting, e-mailing, and social networking have allowed people the opportunity to communicate more with each other they are often connecting in a superficial sense; getting closer to their machines and further from their fellow life forms. People sit together in restaurants and in family dining rooms and rather than speaking face-to-face with the persons opposite them they're on their BlackBerries or other smart-phones interacting virtually. As for the idea of friendship in the twenty-first century, Turkle cites a survey noting that, despite all the "friending" that's going on at Facebook (which provides the illusion of companionship), Americans say they have fewer friends than ever before.

Turkle references another survey in her book indicating that since the year 2000, young people report a dramatic decline in interest in other people. She says that for children, robotic pets are seen as having important advantages over the real things. And the kids are not alone in their preference for mechanized companions. In some situations, elderly patients report that they might prefer a robotic caretaker to a human being. (With respect to human-automaton associations, Turkle alliteratively asserts "Our relationships to robots are ramping up; our relationships with people are ramping down.")

Mixing personal anecdotes, professional research, and philosophical observations, Alone Together, a book that could not have been written by a robot, presciently probes the question: will we be technology's willing slave or guiding master. Highly recommended reading.



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Author:Levinson, Martin H.
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2011
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