Thursday, January 12, 2017

Trust me, I know what I am talking about

"Those of you who are set on your majors based on employment opportunities now should keep in mind that the world twenty years from now--even ten years from now--will be very, very different, and your majors could become meaningless," I told the class.

I know nobody cares about these.  But, I have been telling students that for a long time.  I tell them that the focus ought to be on various kinds of skills that they need for the real world, and should not be on the jargon of the major.  I wish I didn't suffer a Cassandra's Curse situation!

"The best example is the iPhone.  Twenty years ago, such an idea might have been almost science fiction. It is now ten years old, and smartphones have dramatically changed the world," I continued.

I have never been able to understand why people--young and old--have never truly listened to me.  It is not that I am correct in every single instance; but, if I look back at my prognostications based on my understanding of the world, I have an awesome track record.  On the other hand, tens of millions of Republicans loved, loved, loved this bullshitting horrible human being and elected him the president!

Later that evening, my much older neighbor texted me, and I called her back instead of texting a reply.  "I called you because such texting is one of the many ways that the world is rapidly redefining human interactions and--more importantly--what it means to be human," I told her.  This is also an old idea that I have been saying/writing for years.  It might seem rather ironical for a hermit to be worried about human interactions, but we hermits are not misanthropes--we perhaps love humanity way more than all those social butterflies.

Smartphones are affecting human interactions in many ways, including damaging our social capital:
Could our increasing reliance on information from devices, rather than from other people, be costing us opportunities to build social capital?
Yes, of course!  I don't need any research on this.

The authors write:
Contrary to people’s expectations, casual social interactions even with strangers can be surprisingly enjoyable, and a powerful tool in building a sense of connection, community and belonging. Economists sometimes refer to these impalpable links that hold society together as “social capital.” But as intangible as they may be, these bonds between members of a society have very real consequences. When trust between people in a country goes up, for example, so does economic growth. At the individual level, people who trust others more also tend to have better health and higher well-being.
Thanks to smartphones, students in classrooms, for instance, do not even say hello to their fellow classmates.  They are almost always only interacting with their smartphones.  A contrast to the old days when students struck up conversations with the strangers that their classmates were.

Research led the authors to conclude that "people who used their phones to get information trusted strangers less."
As information technology continues to make our lives easier, our findings highlight the possible social costs of constant information access: By turning to convenient electronic devices, people may be forgoing opportunities to foster trust – a finding that seems particularly poignant in the present political climate.
Which the demagogue understood really, really, well when he proclaimed that he alone can and should be trusted.  What a tragedy that people who seem to have lost trust in fellow people are so willing to trust one awful human being whose every word--from his mouth or through his tiny fingers--can never be trusted.


Ramesh said...

You said that to her ??????? No wonder nobody listens to you !!! :)

Why does it have to be either , or ? Can't you handle information technology AND human interactions. Take our own case. Without tech, we wouldn't have reconnected. And that has only grown social interaction; not inhibited it ......

Sriram Khé said...

You and I have reasonably figured out how to make the best use of what technology offers. But, do not assume we are in the majority--I am willing to bet that we are in a rapidly shrinking minority.

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