AUTHOR: Sherry Turkle
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Basic Books, 2011, (360 pages).
Written in two parts, Part One talks about the growing "Robotic Movement" which is increasing more solitude and also creating new intimacies with machines. From young, children were given toys that seem to project a cuddly and personal object, like Furby that seems to have feelings. The Tamagotchi appears like a real thing that we need to clothe, feed, and take care of. Virtual pets take a lot of time to maintain. There are also discomforting toys like female dolls that seem to verbalize reactions like a real woman, especially when it deals with sexual matters. Some people use electronic toys to live with their self-centeredness. Parents let their children return each day to an empty house where the babysitter is often the television, computer games, or the Internet. Responding to people who insist that friendship is possible with robots, Turkle argues that such a tactic demeans the true meaning of friendship. No matter how much programming we can do, there is no replacing conscience, ethics, and the fundamental communion among people.
Part Two deals with the networked environment which solves the problem of bringing people closer but also creates a new situation. People are constantly connected and always busy. In an always-on world, what do we do when we have free time? We will probably be checking our emails, texting, or doing something on the Internet. We can be connected but we can be absent at the same time. Put the phone on the ear and we have already isolated ourselves from the people around us physically. The way programs like "Second Life" enables people to live in a fantasy world totally separated from the world. Turkle notes the following "New State of the Self," how technology has changed us:
- People's attention seems somewhere when they are connected in front of us
- People can be connected to many others on the Internet, that they are infusing face to face meetings with interruptions from cyberspace
- People are increasingly using multitasking as the way of life to do many things; that relationships can easily turn into an item on a To-Do list
Sherry Turkle is the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT. She has been warning us of the negative consequences of technology but does so in a manner that does not discredit the advantages of technology. In fact, she uses it extensively too. What is important is to recognize that Internet relationships are not necessary the "ties that bind." Rather, they tend to be "ties that preoccupy." We need to ask what Kevin Kelly has been asking: "What Technology Wants?" Chances are, technology is going to get what it wants. Technology is still developing, and Turkle thinks it is still the early days. The mood to adopt is "cautiously optimistic." She reminds us once again that at our best, our thoughts about technology should not be about what technology can or cannot do, but about thinking of things that TRULY MATTER. Relationships. How technology is changing that, we must constantly ask and adapt.