We are living in a time when technology seems to control almost everything in our lives. Our culture has traveled from the “ancient” days of refrigerators, washing machines, and automated manufacturing processes—things that made our lives easier—to an era of computers, cell phones and information technology, the verdict on which is mixed at best. Now social media and artificial intelligence begin to threaten our sense of who is in charge: us or our technology?
Women in every decade have had different starting points in the development of technology and have experienced different magnitudes of change. Some of us remember party line telephones, black and white television, mimeographs and a time when the only things in the sky were stars and planets. Others came into childhood and young adulthood during the invention of such advanced technologies as the polio vaccine, 8 track tapes, Princess phones, and the first computers developed for ordinary people.
Moving from party lines to individual cell phones, typewriters to computers, and having access to news and entertainment on demand defied most people’s imaginations. As we age there are many ways we can relate to emerging technologies. We may be pulled into technological advances because of work, our children and grandchildren, or because we find real value in the types of learning and social connectedness that new technologies make possible. Email, cell phones, and medical technology are three areas of technological development that have made a huge impact on our personal lives.
Technology has given us longer lives, more control over our health, ways of predicting weather catastrophes and access to a wealth of information no set of encyclopedias could possibly contain. It has also given us automated telephone information lines, superficial and anonymous ways to form (and break up) relationships, and ethical dilemmas we could never have anticipated. Our individual feelings and attitudes about technology are varied and enormously complicated—just like our technologies.
Questions to Consider:
1) What forms of emerging technology have you embraced and what elements have you ignored and pushed away?
2) What is your relationship with email? With cell phones? With advances in the medical field?
3) Which areas of technology appeal to you, intrigue you, or stimulate your imagination?
4) Which forms of technological development do you have the most concerns about? Talk about some of your concerns and how your concerns have shifted over time.
5) Overall, do you believe that technological development has been of more benefit to our culture and our individual lives, or more limiting or destructive?