Polarity of technology

Digital technologies seem to reflect the worst of humanity, but also the best, and the impression I get is that which end of the spectrum you dwell on very much depends on perspective and how you spend your attention.

We have a tendency to prefer the familiar, particularly when we’re running low on brain juice, because it’s easier to process.

Filter bubbles arise in part out of the relatively low cognitive cost of engaging with familiar ideas

The bubbles we inhabit aren’t always obvious, but they do tend to be quite cozy. Inside of our bubbles we might have access to glimpses of other people living in other bubbles (inhabiting different parts of the world and living different lives), but recommendation algorithms and the forces of the attention economy tend to expose us to extremes rather than normal, mundane lives. Everyday life is considerably less captivating than acts of horrendous violence or cruelty.

What happens when we encounter other people outside of our bubbles, but approach with an open mind and good intentions?

The very technologies that power the filters to our bubbles also allow us to visit ideas and access concepts, skills, and cultures outside of our bubbles. A feat that once required physically transporting one’s self to another part of town or country or world now just requires access to a digital device that connects to the interwebs.

Each time we let new ideas and people into our minds we change (and generally increase the complexity of our thinking)

It helps to approach ideas, cultures, people, and concepts that seem new (what’s new to me might not be new to someone else) with openness and respect. After all, the idea of initiating flirtation by touching a piece of glass displaying a prospective mate’s photo was once new, but technology has this way of pairing the new with the familiar to make it easier to incorporate. Each encounter with newness or differentness is an opportunity to incorporate something new.

The more ideas, perspectives, and people that one encounters the more one grows
Learning from others and engaging with their ideas and perspectives shouldn’t be a one-sided transaction

The more perspectives, experiences, skills, and ideas that one encounters the more concepts one has access to, which form the basis of ideas. Technology allows us to externalize those concepts in a way that allows (and often invites) others to engage with them.

Technology enables those who have access to it to do things they otherwise would not be able to do

Sure, one could use technology in a way that solidifies their bubble and motivates extreme ways of thinking, but how much joy can be found that way? The more concepts you have bouncing around in your head the freer your thoughts can be. The flip-side of that is the fewer concepts you engage with, the fewer ideas you can form and the smaller the world you can inhabit.

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