Necessity is the mother of invention as the old saying goes. Innovators strive to create something new they perceive is needed for a better world. But does invention benefit everyone? It seems quite evident that most of us strive to make our own lives easier. Increasingly, technological invention is about profit and seems to fall under the growing shadow of neoliberalism. It is no secret that funding for scientific projects is hard to come by if there is no short term financial benefit to be reaped. It could be argued that the nurture of technological invention is something that should be publicly funded and should not fall victim to normal market forces. But it’s the way that new technologies are being used that is the cause for greater concern.
We are living in an age of unlimited communication. The fact that so many use the incredible technology we have at our finger tips to trivialise society is probably the saddest indictment of our generation. The size of some celebrity’s arse or the tricks of some random cat should not really matter but perversely this is what the sum of humanities’ technological endeavour is being used to portray.
Tweets about celebrity nonsense far outweigh the use of social media to report and communicate important news and opinions. The top ten retweeted tweets of 2015 tell a disturbing story. The top two were tweets by members of One Direction who also had two more tweets in the top ten. Kanye West and Caitlyn Jenner also appeared on the list. The only seriously meaningful political tweet to make it into the top ten was president Obama’s support for the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in June. This came in at number four.
Not only are we not engaging with each other because we are constantly on our hand held devices instead of developing actual relationships; but what we are generally engaging with is irrelevant drivel. I’ve seen people in a glass room looking at their phones to see what the weather is like outside. As Billy Connelly once famously said: “It’s time to trim the herd!”
These tools should be used to fight inequality and fight the evils of the world such as extreme capitalism and neoliberalism. If we lived in a purely neoliberalistic society, we probably would not have developed such communication technology in the first place because funding would not have been provided for all the steps along the way as it would not have been profitable, or “commercially viable.”
The Arab Spring was a perfect example of how these tools should be used; as a tool of communication for mass revolution among those who had no other means to unite. Of course as with every form of communication tool that has come before; social media is also being used for propaganda. ISIS are deliberately showing beheadings and similar atrocities over the internet and social media to create fear and create further divide between Christian and Muslim communities. It is also believed that ISIS are sharing these images to desensitise their children to this level of violence in the same way that action films and video games have desensitised children in the west to a level of violence they can’t possibly understand.
Technology should be inclusive and not feed further segregation of class, culture or creed. It could be argued that previous generations did not have parents or guardians who had the means at their finger tips to protest against what is seemingly a grotesque popular culture. People are living longer and many generation’s popular culture is remaining relevant for much longer, causing the type of conflict in thought that has led to the writing of this article. In this the value of social media cannot be underestimated as everyone gets their say.
Technology is allowing us to create bubbles in which different sections of society can exist alongside but separate to each other. We all ready have these divisions, should we not be using technology to break them rather than reinforce them? It comes back to the fact that people are not altruistic or even necessarily overtly greedy, most of us are just apathetic. If it directly affects us or people we identify with we suddenly become interested. One only has to remember the attacks in Paris in 2015. It all suddenly became that little bit more real. We all want an easy life and that will probably spell the downfall of our species. Our use of technology appears to be helping us reinforce this apathetic nature.