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  #1  
Old 12-10-2005, 12:28 PM
David Sklansky David Sklansky is offline
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Default Technology\'s Future Psychological Impact

A hundred years ago technology had only a minor impact on the day to day lives of people. Furthermore at least 20% of the population had at least a vague understanding of those technolgies along with the ability if, need be, to grasp them more fully.

Now, and even more so in the not too distant future, technology will have a major impact on peoples's lives. And only maybe five percent of the population will have even the most cursory understanding of how the gadgets that almost eveyone will be so dependent on, works. Even fewer will be smart enough to have any hope of fully understanding their underlying pricnciples and even fewer still, actually will.

I wondering what effect this will have on thinking people.
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  #2  
Old 12-10-2005, 12:40 PM
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Default Re: Technology\'s Future Psychological Impact

I agree that as technology becomes more advanced the origines of those technologies become forgoten. Even the people who know how to build certain parts in say, a computer, don't know how to construct the entire computer from the very essentials of which it is composed. Sciences become more and more specialized and this makes it difficult for anyone to be a complete generalist. If we were to go into another Dark Ages like period of little scientific progress or suffer some catastrophy, would anyone know where to begin to rebuild?

However I dissagree in that technology has had a large impact on the day to day lives of humans even prehistoricaly. Any practical application of science is technology so humans have been implementing it for a long time and often not understanding it. Most people don't understand the chemical reaction behind fire, but this does not stop them from utilizing it.
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  #3  
Old 12-10-2005, 01:24 PM
BluffTHIS! BluffTHIS! is offline
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Default Re: Technology\'s Future Psychological Impact

I think your statement about 100 years ago is in error, as there were major technological changes, relative to what they had before in each previous decade, although not as great a leap perhaps as the pace of technological progress now. And I think your 20% figure for back then is generous.

But it is clear that you are right that the pace of technology means that there will never again be true (I hate to use this cliched term) "Renaissance Men", that is those who have a fundamental grasp of all areas of science and mathematics. The width and depth is just too large for one man to master. But even today, a Nobel laureate in mathematics or physics is unlikely to have spent the time to have an excellent knowledge of transitors, medical biology, or other fields outside his own expertise. He certainly is smart enough to understand them if he would spend the effort, it just is that it is more productive to specialize and have a depth of knowledge in one or two fields, than to have a shallower knowledge of many. There are of course exceptions regarding those who manage technologies for enterprises and such, who don't need a detailed knowledge, but do need to be conversant about a range in order to make production and resource allocation decisions.

The pace of computer technology is one of the best examples of all of this. I owned one of the first micro-computers to come out, an Apple II, and had a good programming ability back then in various computer languages (which today aren't widely used). Back then, my computer knowledge was significantly above that of the average person, whether he owned a computer or not. Now, virtually everyone knows how to use a computer because of the ease of use of graphical user interfaces which make it no longer necessary to need to know comand line operating system procedures. And even though I am not up to speed in the programming procedures of today, I do read magazines and net articles to keep up on the general technologies, and so am still above the average user. And I know where to go to for expert knowledge if I need it as I occasionally do.

The point of your question though, is what is the psychological impact upon people, even very smart ones, who will be able to use various technologies, but not really have a grasp of how they work. This will be true across every type of common technology we use. One only has to look at automotive technology to see that the day of the shade tree mechanic is over, not because necessarily he can't understand the technology, but because the tools needed to work on it are so specialized and expensive that it does not pay to do so for just oneself. And we live in a frustrating time where it is cheaper to throw away many defective products, than to fix them, even assuming a willingness and knowledge to do so.

So the thinking person is going to have to be content with having a shallow knowledge of most areas, while specializing in one or two. And he will have to trust the opinions of experts in other fields in order to know both what technologies should be used and how, but also to make political decisions regarding the impact of such technologies (one only has to look at the debate over global warming to see this and competing scientific viewpoints).

Even though there might be a certain amount of psychological frustration in all levels of society over an inability to comprehend the workings of everyday gadgets, those people will likely still just count it a plus to be able to have those gadgets. And the internet will provide even as it does now, an easy way to tap expert knowledge when needed. The computer technical forum here is a very good example of that, even thoough it is low level compared to other internet computer technical forums.

Look at the average man, and even the well educated man of 100 years ago. He had seen in the previous decades the growing use of electricity, natural gas heat, and railroads. He was about to see the emergence of automobiles and airplanes. He might not have understood all of that, but nonetheless was content with a better quality of life afforded by being able to use them. I think that in the future it will be the same.
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  #4  
Old 12-10-2005, 01:50 PM
Borodog Borodog is offline
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Default Re: Technology\'s Future Psychological Impact

[ QUOTE ]
A hundred years ago technology had only a minor impact on the day to day lives of people.

[/ QUOTE ]

I disagree completely. Technology dominated peoples' lives one hundred years ago exactly as much as it does today. Every facet of every moment of every day in 1905 involved technologies in manufacturing, agriculture, medicine, etc. Every human being in western civilisation in 1905 covered themselves with manufactured goods, made their homes from manufactured tools, was employed in some task that required manufactured goods, etc. Boots, buttons, cloth, knives, guns, glasses, buggy whips, plows, machines, everything. In fact, man is defined by his technology. Without our technology we are naked apes, shivering and being eaten by bears.

Just yesterday it occured to me that everthing in the modern world, literally hundreds of billions of manufactured items, is the end result of an unbroken chain of manufacture that muse go back a minimum of seven to ten thousand years, possibly longer. Modern goods are made from tools and machines that were made with tools and machines that were made with tools and machines . . . The last time that tools themselves were created from nothing but new, raw materials available in and on the Earth, and the application of nothing but human labor, had to be many thousands of years ago. It could be argued that certain native tribes in North America and elsewhere around the globe that still practiced raw toolmaking traditions like stone knapping are exceptions. But I would argue that those tool lineagaes are almost certainly extinct. Modern tools like manufactured knives have completely replaced native toolmaking traditions.

[ QUOTE ]
Furthermore at least 20% of the population had at least a vague understanding of those technolgies along with the ability if, need be, to grasp them more fully.

[/ QUOTE ]

I doubt this as well. Did 20% of the population in 1905 know how to manufacture gun powder, a thousand year old technology? Did 20% of the population know how to make steel? How to weave cloth? Manufacture paper? How to build and operate a steam engine? How to make a gun? And to the extent that there was some fraction of the population "vaguely familiar" with the principles behind these technologies, I would argue that percentage has not dropped in the modern populace (as poor as our education system is, there is still bound to be 20% of the population that succedes in spite of it).

I would argue that in 1905 the division of labor was as absolute as it is now, and that few people worried about how the locomotive worked or how to make gun powder, unless they worked on locomotives or at a gun powder plant.

As for technologies becoming ever more intricate with ever fewer people able to understand them, we already have that. A modern airliner is so complex that no one member of the team of engineers that designs it has a complete understanding of every component and scientific principle behind the design. Engines are ordered from engine manufacturers that meet certain specifications. It weighs so much, consumes so much fuel, produces so much thrust, etc. The people designing the wing most likely have only a rudimentary understanding of the mechanics of the engine, and the people who made the engine probably have only a rudimentary understanding of wing design. The human factors engineers who design the cockpit have little understanding of aerodynamics and lift, or hydraulic controls, or landing gear design, etc.

[ QUOTE ]
Now, and even more so in the not too distant future, technology will have a major impact on peoples's lives. And only maybe five percent of the population will have even the most cursory understanding of how the gadgets that almost eveyone will be so dependent on, works. Even fewer will be smart enough to have any hope of fully understanding their underlying pricnciples and even fewer still, actually will.

[/ QUOTE ]

Paradoxically I think you're being both to harsh on people and too generous. I think that we're already at the point where the majority of people have only a rudimentary understanding of how the technologies we're dependent on work, but I believe that if not most, at least a good chunk of people do in fact have that rudimentary understanding. Which, given the division of labor, is probably more than they require at all.

[ QUOTE ]
I wondering what effect this will have on thinking people.

[/ QUOTE ]

I suspect very little.
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  #5  
Old 12-10-2005, 04:19 PM
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Default Re: Technology\'s Future Psychological Impact

As others have no doubt said the idea that technology did not impact strongly on people's lives a hundred years ago is incorrect. Even such simple technology as agriculture profoundly changed everyone's life forever. It created war and allowed for a huge increase in humanities population. None the less, technology is increasing in an exponential rate. Until one hundred years ago almost all inventions made by man were really just a few simple machines put together. Now, we have incredibly complicate devices capable of doing incredibly complicated things. This trend will continue for a long time, so long as humanity survives the next few centuries. This will have an incredible effect on our society in ways we cannot accurately predict at the moment.
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  #6  
Old 12-10-2005, 04:36 PM
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Default Re: Technology\'s Future Psychological Impact

[ QUOTE ]
there will never again be true (I hate to use this cliched term) "Renaissance Men", that is those who have a fundamental grasp of all areas of science and mathematics.

[/ QUOTE ]

Indeed, in mathematics alone nobody has had a substantial grasp of much of the field since around the turn of the last century, and the men I am thinking of, Hilbert and Poincare, were geniuses of the highest caliber.

[ QUOTE ]
But even today, a Fields Medalist in mathematics or a Nobel laureate in physics...

[/ QUOTE ]

FYP.
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  #7  
Old 12-10-2005, 05:55 PM
ZeeJustin ZeeJustin is offline
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Default Re: Technology\'s Future Psychological Impact

[ QUOTE ]
In fact, man is defined by his technology. Without our technology we are naked apes, shivering and being eaten by bears.

[/ QUOTE ]

Clearly you are using a very broad definition of the word technology, and this has nothing to do with the topic David is trying to discuss.
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  #8  
Old 12-10-2005, 05:59 PM
Borodog Borodog is offline
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Default Re: Technology\'s Future Psychological Impact

I believe that I'm using the only reasonable definition of technology; products and the tools used to create them that make life longer or easier.
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  #9  
Old 12-10-2005, 06:51 PM
imported_luckyme imported_luckyme is offline
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Default Re: Technology\'s Future Psychological Impact

[ QUOTE ]
I wondering what effect this will have on thinking people.

[/ QUOTE ]

Not much on thinking people, but it's much easier to succeed today and not be a thinking person so there'll be less of them by percentage.

The effect of not getting plenty of exposure to the application of 'the nature of things' is an increased susceptability to magical thinking. The current rise in astrology is caused by the same lack of a good grasp of scientific principles as it was 200 years ago.

Two hundred years ago the overall scientific knowledge was much less and it's availability to the general population was low. Today, the scientific knowledge is huge but the availability/need for it by the general population is low. It's like it's not there again.

Prepare for more magical thinking.
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  #10  
Old 12-10-2005, 07:52 PM
Lestat Lestat is offline
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Default Re: Technology\'s Future Psychological Impact

The biggest problem as I see it (and as it relates to me personally), is modern man's refusal to read a set of instructions.

I am still reeling from the psychological ramifications of getting my ipod to download properly.
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