Progress is not always about learning how to use technology in more advanced ways. Progress can also be learning how to reject those technologies when they are no longer beneficial. To wit:
Some people have decided to either leave Twitter or simply stop participating in the discussions. See: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ feud with Cornel West
Many people intentionally disconnect from social media – they have decided to get “off the grid”. See: Dave Rubin’s direct message for August 2nd
Several books critical of Silicon Valley culture and its products have been published within the last few years. Three that I have read most recently are:
- Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech, by Sara Wachter-Boettcher
- World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech, by Franklin Foer
- Weapons of Math Destruction, by Cathy O’Neil
I see this rejection of social media and these critiques of Silicon Valley as a sign of a clear-eyed population observing technology with a healthy skepticism, ready to so “no” when they need to. Rejection of technology, we can even say the rejection of progress, need not mean ignorance. There is progress in regress, so to speak.
We are more critical of how these technologies impact our lives. We are not as enamored with social media companies as we used to be. There was a time when society saw them as a completely benign force that “does no evil”. It doesn’t mean they are inherently bad either. It just means that they are companies, pure and simple. Their bottom line is not to create a just world, but to increase profits.
We have become much more critical of the way in which new technologies organize and engineer human thought.
For instance, it has become something of a given now that you should not hold conversations via e-mail unless you absolutely have to. E-mail is instrumental – for relaying information and logistics. People have rejected e-mail for everyday communication and prefer to call or speak in person.
Another example is the increasing demand for flip phones and other retro cell phones. Some of this increase could be because of people wishing to adopt a hip, retro pose. But I suspect that there are a large number of people who have no desire to mired in the Android or the iOS world.
This is not luddism. This is wisdom.