Stephen Lewis: Technological connectedness from Thoreau to


Stephen Lewis

When I woke up this morning to an electronic mail inbox crammed with a variety of solicitations that managed to wiggle through my spam filters, I recalled this observation offered by Henry David Thoreau about mid-19th century improvements in connectedness:

“We are in excellent haste to assemble a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas but Maine and Texas, it may well be, have absolutely nothing critical to converse … We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and convey the old entire world some months nearer to the new but perchance the initially news that will leak as a result of into the broad flapping American ear will be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.”

Thoreau’s place almost two hundreds of years back is that relieve has almost nothing to do with good quality of link somewhat, it encourages trivial sharing fairly than substantive interaction.

Thoreau could have imagined how this relieve of interconnectedness would be monetized in our funds pushed modern society, and thus account for the spam filling up my inbox day by day. All of that is just an evolution from door-to-door salespersons to advertisements in print media, to the explosion of obtain in the electronic earth.

Chalk all that up largely to an discomfort with a smaller beneficial of retaining our professional engines humming in a way that makes our lives additional pleasurable by enabling us to get what we will need. But Thoreau was on to anything extra essential when he warned from the elevation of trivial gossip as a byproduct of 19th-century technological innovations.

While his pre-Civil War observation that most likely Maine and Texas have nothing at all to converse about is eerily prescient, foreshadowing that slavery, the a single thing they really should be talking about, would direct to the calamity of the Civil War, his characterization of the use of the new technology for gossip has in the age of Fb and Twitter even more relevance.

The sort of gossip Thoreau experienced in brain is harmless, if senseless.

Of what individual interest is, in Thoreau’s case in point, the wellbeing of Princess Adelaide, spouse of the English king? This sort of chatter would seem to response some human need to have to get a peek into the life of the renowned. But there is one more type of gossip that feeds on the urge to denigrate others, the form of interaction that utilized to be whispered in hushed tones.

Our new technological globe has amplified all those hushed tones into howls of condemnation that occupy considerable place in our electronic environment. They are broadcast on our social media platforms to audiences composed of “friends” with some of whom we actually have abiding individual connections, but with a great number of other individuals with whom we could not have significantly genuinely in prevalent but equivalent values and attitudes. In this way, we are encouraged to share what we already agree on and disregard or condemn that which we do not.

Consequently, we speak only to those we assume to agree with us and ignore most people else as however they belong to a distinctive tribe, or even specie.

The destructive accelerant in this process is the ease of becoming a member of the conversation in a variety of thoughtless way. We “like” and “share” that which we hope our communicants to want to hear and not hassle them with ideas of a distinct persuasion. Accomplishing so is tiny more than exchanging nods or grunts.

None of this, I’m guaranteed, would Thoreau feel nutritious for the personal or culture.

Our engineering promotes shallow and speedy affirmation and consensus at the expense of deeper and extra thought of exchange of concepts.

He would see we have made a negative deal of sacrificing high quality for simplicity.

What he apprehensive about then threatens to come to be a nightmare from which it will be tricky to awaken.

Stephen Lewis, initially from Brooklyn, NY, is a retired English professor and author whose guides involve his a short while ago printed memoir and 3 mysteries set in northern Michigan. Attain Lewis at [email protected]

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