Dirk Hermann

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Is modern technology reducing our critical thinking by "just" affirming or confirming our preferences?

In a world where most of everything is automated I fear that my opinion is more and more streamlined not only because of media spinning but also because controversial opinions, statements, books, articles etc. are simply not provided (strange word... or rather recommended) any more... Amazon will show plenty of books or music similar to my last choices and seeming preferences... Facebook is filtering out non-conform friends.

Are we oversimplifying our live using modern technology, are we actually outsourcing our opinion making?

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    Apr 24 2014: Hello Herman, I am so happy to see this debate...
    I think that modern technology, internet and social networks sends latent model of perfect human profile, we are running to. We are listening what is cool, eating cool, we are beautiful, smart, educated, open minded....behind it, we are lonely, surrounded with our own complexes, alone, in pursuit of attention, stability and security in modern techology and social networks.

    I can't tell it makes my life simplified, I have feeling that somebody is watching me, and anticipates mine choices, my decisons,my views-and it scares me sometimes.

    Also, I can offer you movie "HER" about modern technology. It's pure example about how it is addiction, and bad for people, makes us alienate, and feel uncomfortable in some company, and surrounded with people, but still alone.
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      Apr 25 2014: Hi Jelena,

      indeed and this is a vicious circle that we need to escape. We need to take decisions that potentially "hurt" as it goes against common models of beauty, of music... of anything dictated or "recommended" by adverts.

      It does take some gut to swim against the stream or to have an opinion that differs... but I strongly believe that not thinking for yourself, that not following your feelings (music, arts, appearance,...) is the worst choice possible.

      I am looking forward to watch "HER" and will send you my comment if you are interested. :-)
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      May 5 2014: Your point is excellent.

      I'd say Technology is like some Medication for the majority of suffering people, it is prescribed for loneliness, lack of knowledge and fast but very temporary "recovery" from depression..

      None of us is designed to be isolated from nature and one another, we are here to live and co-exist with all sorts of different living creatures, and we get very sick without living trees and grass, without those endless Natural skies and breathing oceans.

      As I understand - while we are not perfectly developed as living beings we Do need some help! some sort of crutches like computers and other types of technological devices. We cannot hear, smell and see very well compared with other animals, we get lost very quickly having very weak sense of intuition.

      But we must find some balance without getting isolated inside our artificially-built boxes of "safety" or "knowledge".

      An internet is a great tool for someone who is searching for specific information, whether it is a special research, history, sciences or philosophy when you can find and compare material from very different sources. I have a great library at home, but I use the internet very intensely - it is still my super library.
  • Apr 24 2014: Good question Dirk,
    I'll be taking a bit of a different direction.

    I've wondered for some time, why foreign publications are not being translated and made available in print,
    those containing controversial opinions, statements, books, articles etc., seldom see the light of day in the
    English speaking world. Who knows the pioneering thoughts of an eastern African writer, or a Chinese, or
    Manchurian, a Finn, a Swede, or a Chilean. We have this wonderful internet, but it hasn't really opened
    many avenues to bring us all together. Instead, we find Corporations selling operating systems and selling,
    selling, selling. A one way street, ending in your driveway, or at your front door.

    I am a critical thinking person, that's true. But, there is so much we could be learning instead of
    Netflick, and Amazon. There is market enough. We just need to find it, and use it to share.

    If government's can have their own hidden internets, and hidden agenda's, why not we?
    Intellectual's have banded together before, just to hide their knowledge in cave, etc. .
    Perhaps they need to now share to bring the World's ideas to the World's peoples,
    not governments, not greedy corporations, just us.

    Did any of this make sense? I hope so.
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      Apr 24 2014: I like the way you think!

      In this case technology actually may be able to help, I must admit I never really tried google translate, but this may help to overcome the confusion of babel. :-)

      And you are right, we do not hear much from other countries... Potentially TED is one of this roads that connect people believing in the same principles or vision. I read a book called the night circus where the attached followers wore red scarfs to recognize themselves... since then I own one. ;-)

      You may also check out the books from Cory Doktorow (little brother, homeland) where the concept of us against them is put into action in an interesting way. It is written for young adults, but I loved it.

      The sharing of information in science and the arts has always been the glue between nations regardless of the political system... why? Because this is a passion that should not know national boundaries, moral limits yes, but not geographic ones.

      I for my example have not yet had the chance to participate at a TED event... but it is high up my wish list.

      Regarding the sharing of information, this media is already an excellent way, but the question is also which network to choose, which platform to use? Is the information digestible for e.g. non-experts?

      Sharing information to ensure common growth? I like it!
      • Apr 24 2014: Canada doesn't seem to want to share with the lower 48 United States.
        They refuse to allow their programing to be sent to Americans. It just
        causes more and more use of pirate torrents to watch Canadian programs.

        I believe they have some sort of "crisis of identity". And feel that the
        US media and Hollywood's produce is overwhelming their own.
        But they probably have forgotten that the internet has that as it's prime
        purpose, to homogenize and pasteurize the internet's milk of human

        It is time for us all to integrate. We should be trying to download and
        watch programming from all nations. We surely don't want them to
        exclude us or anyone else. Open programming world-wide is going
        to be necessary for us to eliminate the War mongers, and bring peace
        and harmony to all. Babel should go the way of the parasite tax man.
        Getting rid of both would be a boon to all of us.

        Sharing information to ensure common growth? I like it too.
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          Apr 28 2014: One danger here is however that the discussion of the information shared needs to take place... sadly enough I have tons of studies on my desktop which are waiting to be discovered and I just move it to tomorrow... but once read... where to discuss them, where to applaud them?

          Reading without talking about it seems lacking. What do you think?
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      May 1 2014: What a great comment, Frank, great thinking. It seems that we see more and more garbage "delivered" by technology, but it makes harder to get through it to find something valuable...

      We spend great amount of time handling, seting up and fixing our tech devices wasting precious time...

      Only the thought of spending my whole day on fixing and adjusting some programs makes me depressed..

      Another problem we must face that tech gadgets are constantly "advanced" but in the majority of cases are not at all really improved - it is only a cheap sale trick - we see some design/icons changed (for no good reason) , switches and keys are replaced and even that on/off tiny thing impossible to find!! and your program becomes more unhandy... but all that is involving new "learning" All the tricks to sell you things you do not need - and the industries make you buy them by disabling, disconnecting your recent programs you're using successfully!!!!

      No wonder that recently my friend has purchased a 25 yearold synthesizer(keyboard) and insainly happy - it is so easy to use! and the results/sound are fantastic.
      • May 1 2014: Vera, I got a brand new computer for Christmas.

        This is my late night harangue, 11:48pm

        I am sure you realize that we all are bombarded day and night with commercials.
        No matter, I get up each morning, and attempt to work on my Excel spreadsheet program. Sometimes I get all the way to my email, and before I can read anything, some odd thing
        called ccc.exe replaces my email and wants to know if I want ccc.exe to be able to use
        my computer to do something. If I click yes, or no, it goes away until the next morning.
        I received this ccc.exe compliments of a Microsoft error when they placed a Banner across
        my screen, and forced me to go to their Store and download Windows 8.1, and look at
        Microsoft's advertisement's for 50 or 60 APPs. At that point I downloaded Win 8.1, and
        Microsoft gave me the little virus called ccc.exe. My daughter stopped by, took ccc.exe
        and disposed of it. A couple weeks later Microsoft's Banner appeared and we went through
        the same procedure, and I downloaded Win 8.1 again thinking it was what they were calling
        an update. Hello ccc.exe. Back again, and again, and again, etc... I suppose I have to
        call my daughter again.

        I've yelled and screamed at Bill Gates, and his Corporation, but nothing happened until I got
        an answer from a Microsoft Help in Australia. After going back and forth with my problem
        for two weeks, the guy said to call an 800 number inside the United States and try again.

        I purchased every operating system Microsoft has ever made. XP was God.
        The rest were CRAP. Pardon me... I know Bill Gates is part of TED's wealth, and he
        may have some influence on their site. But dammit, Greed is Greed. Why is it so so
        important that Microsoft continue to make money. Bill Gates cannot spend it all.
        Microsoft needs to go the path that Kodak and Gen. McArthur trod, just fade away..
    • May 4 2014: What doe'sn't make 'sen'se i's your u'se of apo'strophe's.
      • May 4 2014: Bryan, once again you see beyond the great out there.
        That that that that.

        Using an apostrophe coupled with an “s” to make a noun plural is undoubtedly
        one of the most heinous and unforgivable blasphemous grammatical error's.

        You add an “-s.” Sometimes you have to add an “-es” if the singular noun already
        ends in “-s” or change a “-y” to “-ies.” It’s usually as simple as that.

        I just feel the need to sneak in an apostrophe. When I do that, I'm not pluralizing —
        I am indicating possession.

        I had a problem as a child, hiding an i, to shorten two short words, It is.
        Then there was a confounding you’re, which is short for you are, hiding an a.
        Of course I cannot forget who’s, which is short for who is, hiding an i.
        All of them, “It’s,” “you’re” and “who’s,” therefore, are contractions.

        “Its,” “your” and “whose,” on the other hand, are possessives.
        It may seem counterintuitive that words without apostrophes are sometimes possessive,
        but the grammar world is strange that way.

        Please forgive greedy me.
  • Apr 29 2014: no no no no....WE are responsible.

    But good lord, we love to blame others. It's either your slave or your master. One, or the other. Never both.
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    Apr 23 2014: i don't believe technology has quite the automatic impact on everyone that many people keep suggesting.

    most of these "tools" are for convenience and entertainment and when the two are combined, it's bottom of the barrel stuff.

    when i see and hear people talking about how technology helps improve learning and thinking, i think that there is little hope those people ever had the ability to think independently in the first place.

    yes, technology does narrow what you automatically access or rather what it automatically presents you in the vain pursuit of targeting individual consumers. that will have an effect on people who lack the ability or desire to think and search beyond their immediate environment for answers but so has network news and key-note speakers..
    • Apr 30 2014: Gresham's Law is not merely economic, it encompasses human activity in general. If we couple Gresham's Law with a generalization of Spurgeon's Law and the Law of Derp (Laziness and incompetence explain far better than malice and conspiracy.), we have Maloney's Theory of Human Behavior.
  • May 3 2014: To some degree yes. However, as always, it's been up to us to find a way to engage with unfamiliar ideas or those dissimilar to our own; and I think we underestimate our natural capacity to self-censor anyways. A large percentage of people would rather live an unexamined life, talking into an echo-chamber of their own making. Understanding that, modern technology [specifically, communications technology, like the internet and internet services] doesn't build that echo-chamber, but simply acknowledges that most people want to, and makes it easier for people to build it themselves.
  • May 1 2014: Hi Dear Dirk,I think critical thinking is one kind of quality we need to practice with our brains,mind,whole body.Modern technology can help us to get things we wanted faster,easier...but every of your choice,word...when you show them,you need to be conscious of keep critical thinking all the time.Things come faster and easier,it means you don't need to spend more time to find them,but critical thinking means how you choose,how you decide,how you judge...ect...
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      May 6 2014: Looking at the pyramid of data, information, knowledge, wisdom I think we are currently stuck at the first two levels and have difficulty passing to the upper two levels where our critical thinking comes into place.

      Critical thinking is indeed a mindset that does not accept the given at least not without having it challenged from all sides.

      And this is where I am struggling with your comment: It does take more time, it is challenging, it is an effort, you can be wrong...

      Here I think that we are looking at a society that doesn't want to be wrong, that doesn't want to spend lots of time potentially even "wasting" time as there may not be a tangible result... potentially "just" that the argument you have been investigating is correct... And this is what I fear has been aggravated by technology.
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        May 6 2014: Dirk, Let me add this to your comment - without mental digestion of info or data one is unable to produce any critical thinking.

        I see that the core of our major problem we "share" - in the mountains of overwhelming info that is Impossible to any living form to Digest..(unless it's printed on paper..for paper-eaters )

        It's a very important topic you suggest here, though I cannot see much of any clear solution yet. It is not easy to find something workable. When we deal with masses and mass productions, mass psychology and "fashions" no reasonable solution seems to be fairly effective.
  • Apr 26 2014: I do not think so, I believe it is giving us more freedom and more to think about in making our own choices. Critical thinking is a learned behavior so if you were critical before you will probably be just as critical today except with modern technology you have tools to speed up the thinking process by getting more data faster.
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      Apr 28 2014: You said it... critical thinking... This is what is lacking... As where does this start? Does it start when you do not need to check your agenda and make choices as your electronic assistant has perfectly organized your agenda? Is it when you do not need to compare airlines or books or or or as algorithms do this for you? Critical thinking does not start with philosophy or political choices but in our every day life when you take distinct decisions based on comparison etc... reducing these occasions reduces your capability to think critically.

      Looking at the success of current games this capacity for critical thinking is reduced as one result of critical thinking is renouncing easy success which these games avoid by directly matching effort to points: Gamification of life... do this and get some points... after some points you get an upgrade.... make a cross here and get a free espresso there... sounds familiar? brrrghhhh
      • Apr 28 2014: Actually Dirk no it does not sound familiar to me but maybe I am "Abbey Normal", I hope so. I do see what you are talking about in movies from time to time and in public. Device zombies walking around twiddling their fingers on a plastic device. I spend very little time on the road so I have no need for mobile communication other than a cell phone. I am not a gamer either so my computer is mostly used to design systems, build websites, videos, philosophy research and solve critical world problems. I do my own critical thinking but I use the computer mostly to gather information because it is much faster, however after I gather opinions of the masses I then have to compare that with my own evidence to decide what is "right" for me.
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    Apr 25 2014: Hi Dirk,

    The only power humans have on this earth is the power of choice. But it is enough to retain and develop our personal skills in critical thinking.
    We can choose not to read/use certain technology-filtered opinions. We can choose to use the "off" button. We can choose real "out-of-the-box" thinking via the adage "Know Thyself"; if anyone really wants to find out what they truly believe uninfluenced by technology, then one has to dig deep, deep inside.

    Relating to a different comment below, Technology is always sold on the promise that it saves us time. It rarely does. It just raises expectations to achieve more and we end up working longer hours.
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      Apr 25 2014: HI Joshua,

      Basically everything we do is based on distinct decisions and choices we make, is it to wake up, is it to read, not to read... However due to the multitude of choices to be taken in the networked world and the wealth of information to digest and transform into intelligence or wisdom makes it harder (not impossible) to come to a conclusive opinion.

      The off button does exist, you are right and this is an argument also brought forward by Colleen and this is on the one side part of the solution, but on the other side are we facing the problem of "needing" to be online and "needing" to be connected in order not to miss something completely irrelevant. There are actually camps without connection to allow for some piece of mind...

      I also enjoyed your last argument with all the time we saved... we are spending more and more on other things... and are actually expected to respond quicker and quicker and basically around the clock.

      So yes using technology is a conscious decison... but what if not using it becomes more and difficult based on cultural requirements?
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    Apr 24 2014: Yes, and iTunes also provides suggestions based on your preferences.
    However, It's up to each single person to actually make decisions or just delegate them to technology.
    So, it's not really technology reducing our critical thinking but perhaps our laziness to make decisions and outsource them.
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      Apr 25 2014: Indeed... but isn't this laziness potentially paired with a sense of helplessness as well? As in I do not know enough to actually make a choice so I just follow the mainstream?
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        Apr 25 2014: Good point Dirk! Who creates and experiences the sense of helplessness and laziness? Is it the computer?

        Following the mainstream IS making a choice....is it not?
        • Apr 27 2014: "Following the mainstream IS making a choice....is it not?"
          (will probably edit/disagree, as nothing dead swims up the stream.)
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          Apr 28 2014: Hahaha... this is where the difference between tools and software or apps comes in.

          Let me quickly give you an example. Working with powerpoint, excel,... can seem tedious and at the end of a day nothing much seems to have been done so you that had no visible "success". Then you come home and play some easy games (typically for free) and are directly successful with visible results and everything seems easy or comes easily... so you compensate daily routines with nightly "easily" bought successes.

          This does sound weird... as in the end it is just a waste of time and looks familiar to Soma from "brave new world"...
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        Apr 26 2014: Hi Dirk, following is always easier than coming up with own ideas.
        Followers always existed and always will exist. What is different today form a few years ago, is that now, the "leader" sometimes is a computer app and not a real person.
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        Apr 28 2014: Let me give YOU an example Dirk:>)

        I DO NOT play computer games, and that is a choice I make.

        Your question..."Is modern technology reducing our critical thinking".

        My answer is still no....technology CANNOT reduce our critical thinking.....UNLESS.....we make the choices which contribute to the reduction in our critical thinking:>)

        Software, apps, the entire device is a tool, and how we use the tool is very relevant to the outcome for ourselves.
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    Apr 24 2014: Hi Dirk, and welcome to TED conversations!

    I do not think that technology can reduce our critical thinking. As multi-sensory, multi-dimensional, multi-faceted, intelligent human beings, we have choices. Technology is a tool, which can be used in various ways, and provides an amazing amount of information. We have the ability to sift through information and choose how we want to use the information....yes?

    I do not allow Facebook to "filter" my friends, and I do not simply buy the books Amazon suggests.....I have choices. I also explore various media sources for information, so I am not always getting the same information.

    That being said, it appears that some people DO indeed allow on-line/media information to influence decisions they make, thereby giving up the opportunity to make choices that are well informed. I agree with Scott, who suggests that it may have..."an effect on people who lack the ability or desire to think and search beyond their immediate environment for answers...".
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      Apr 24 2014: Hi Colleen, thank you for your warm welcome and excellent points made!

      I had a conversation with a friend years ago that may help elaborate my argument. He promoted the idea of technology or the web in supporting his day to day life from appointments to shopping etc saying that this would free up his valuable time for things that mattered to him.

      My stand point here was basically what you say in your comment, but I do also see the seductive approach he put forward. Simplifying your life by letting technology or tools help you do the little chores no one really wants to do may lead to the point where basically everything is being done for you at your convenience... This may sound tempting for many who barely have time for anything and just want to relax and get a little distraction... But what do you do in this freed up time? Checking on controversial opinions and/or read around to get that additional information that may solidify your thoughts? I must admit that I doubt it...

      I admire your approach and believe that in a society with responsible and mature citizens this is a role model... but alas Adam took the apple and we are to easily deceived by simple answers.

      Coming back to Scotts argument, I think that this answer only covers part of the truth as with the mass of information and options available people tend to stick to what they understand and put into the context of their daily lives and challenges. If a tool helps to simplify their choices... many are tempted and use it.

      From your comment I understand that rather a minority is only consuming information without processing it into knowledge or wisdom... and the larger part of our society is actually doing their homework when reading around... Is this correct?
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        Apr 24 2014: I suggest that if a person is "deceived by simple answers", Dirk, it might be time for that person to do some exploration/homework to "know thyself", and learn how to get accurate, appropriate information so s/he is not deceived.....or deceived as little as possible:>)

        I have no idea how many people are actually doing their homework....or not. I hang around with people who have not given up their opportunity to make well informed decisions, so they/we tend to address many issues with some knowledge. I do not usually choose to have too many conversations with those who seem to be "stuck" or "deceived" simply because they are not willing to explore relevant, accurate, available information.
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          Apr 24 2014: Again valid point, but isn't this also a kind of ivory tower where the powerful observe the ignorant? What can we or you do to change this deplorable situation?

          TED is one way to change this situation, but isn't this also the so called monkey grooming picture mentioned by Bryan? In my opinion TEDsters are willing to look around and what is outside their box and love to share this knowledge with the ones starving for food for thought... but again, isn't this some kind of the aforementioned ivory tower? What do you think?
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        Apr 24 2014: Who are you labeling powerful, and who are you labeling ignorant Dirk?

        What can we do to change the situation?

        Keep talking about it, encouraging others to be as informed as possible, and offering information. For example, when people complain to me about local, regional or state government, I ask them... when was the last time they ran for an office? When was the last time they contacted their representative to discuss an issue they are concerned about? Do you know what your representative's voting history is? If someone doesn't have this very basic information, and has not taken some very basic steps toward change, I tell them to stop complaining....if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

        I think a LOT of TEDsters are very intelligent, informed, open-minded, open hearted people. That being said, there are some folks in our world who are "stuck" in their own personal thoughts, feelings, ideas, perceptions, perspectives, beliefs, and agendas. Maybe that is why they come to TED? To explore outside their "box?

        People who want to take the easy path, will do that, and those of us who genuinely want to explore life will do so. How one uses technology is a choice, and those who have the desire to think beyond their immediate environment will do so......or not. I do not perceive the situation as "deplorable". I observe people making choices for themselves, and the choices we/they make (including how we use technology), influences our life adventure.
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          Apr 24 2014: This just made me think of Steve Jobs: Stay hungry, stay foolish! And this is why I decided to join this community to get to know more people that share this willingness to change themselves but also people around.

          Deplorable is describing the lacking self confidence of many people (myself included) to go forward and engage in this change. Meaning that even though we are taking part in the adventure of life the boxes are a little to well defined to "quickly" change them.

          Deplorable also means that this lack of self confidence is met with success in e.g. parallel worlds... why? Possibly because our inherent talents have not been promoted at a younger age... This may be different in the US, but in Germany the talent identification rarely takes place and kids are pressurized to meet some standards they may not be able to achieve.

          Deplorable also, because one concept I have not touched yet is that I/we may not be able to cope with technology as it has already surpassed our capabilities or understanding...
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        Apr 25 2014: I'm glad you joined the TED community Dirk, because I see a LOT of potential here, and it is technology that facilitates this opportunity:>)

        I have no intent to change those I interact with, because I believe any change in an individual comes from the person him/herself. We all have the ability to consider information and use it productively....or not....it is a choice in every moment of the life adventure.

        I agree with you.....change usually does not happen quickly.....that's life! I believe in the ripple effect....the butterfly effect, and in my 60+ years, I've observed it working pretty well:>)

        We can perceive change as giving up something, or we can perceive change as adding something to what we already have. Our perception of change is a choice too, and I prefer to observe change as learning, growing and evolving. If we perceive change as a difficult struggle, we are creating our reality. If we move toward change with good intent, enthusiasm and hope for a better tomorrow, that is the energy we bring to changing possibilities and opportunities.

        As one of my engineer friends says when faced with a challenge..."it's not a problem....it's a feature". We can perceive change as a difficult struggle....or.....an opportunity. With our change in perception of the challenge, we change the dynamic of the challenge....make any sense?

        You say..."I/we may not be able to cope with technology as it has already surpassed our capabilities or understanding... ".

        Personally, I do not believe technology has surpassed my capabilities or understanding. I have an on/off button on my computer, which I can use at will....I suspect everyone has that feature on his/her electronic devices?
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          Apr 28 2014: Indeed this on/off button does come in handy from time to time... but just look at the internet of things (e.g. fridges, air conditioning,...) this will be more and more always on sending information around the clock... ah and I forgot another nice gadget "wearables"... excellent! your heartrate, position,... can be tracked for your benefit and use to improve your health. Sounds good? Yes, but again what are the potential downsides?

          The off button is there... sometimes but goal is to be always online e.g. the latest xbox that was deemed to be always on and ready to serve your convenience.

          Doesn't this sound scary?
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        Apr 28 2014: No Dirk, it doesn't sound scary to me because I know I have choices. I use critical thinking to decide how I want to use technology:>)
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      Apr 28 2014: Wished millions could hear and learn from you, Colleen.
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        May 2 2014: We all have the opportunity to learn from each other in every moment Vera....I know you know that:>)

        The idea that we have choices regarding how we live our lives has been offered to us by gurus, philosophers, psychologists, sages, prophets and teachers from many different disciplines, throughout the history of humankind. The question is.....when will we genuinely listen? And how do we use the information?
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    May 6 2014: Modern technology is most definitely oversimplifying our lives as well as outsourcing our opinion-making. Yet we must realize that we are also "voting" for this technology by simply making the decision to use it. Our shopping habits on Amazon, every "like" or "share" on Facebook, each news/journal article headline that we click on, every YouTube video that we watch. These are all choices that consequently inform content providers what they should bombard us with.
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    May 6 2014: Modern technology is indeed inhibiting critical thinking.
    How can someone who spends (oh, squander is a better word) the whole day on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or some movie streaming file, ever have time for critical thinking? Or meditation?

    And companies are more interested in making money and remaining profitable than in promoting Ubuntu. Mass media is a great weapon for propaganda; but in the 21st century, propaganda has a almost perfect disguise; most folks dont think much. They just follow what is popular and trendy.
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    May 6 2014: Modern technology is indeed inhibiting critical thinking.
    How can someone who spends (oh, squander is a better word) the whole day on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or some movie streaming file, ever have time for critical thinking? Or meditation?

    And companies are more interested in making money and remaining profitable than in promoting Ubuntu. Mass media is a great weapon for propaganda; but in the 21st century, propaganda has a almost perfect disguise; most folks dont think much. They just follow what is popular and trendy.
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    May 6 2014: Modern technology is indeed inhibiting critical thinking.
    How can someone who spends (oh, squander is a better word) the whole day on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or some movie streaming file, ever have time for critical thinking? Or meditation?

    And companies are more interested in making money and remaining profitable than in promoting Ubuntu. Mass media is a great weapon for propaganda; but in the 21st century, propaganda has a almost perfect disguise; most folks dont think much. They just follow what is popular and trendy.
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    May 6 2014: Modern technology is indeed inhibiting critical thinking.
    How can someone who spends (oh, squander is a better word) the whole day on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or some movie streaming file, ever have time for critical thinking? Or meditation?

    And companies are more interested in making money and remaining profitable than in promoting Ubuntu. Mass media is a great weapon for propaganda; but in the 21st century, propaganda has a almost perfect disguise; most folks dont think much. They just follow what is popular and trendy.
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    Gord G

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    May 6 2014: I find the universal WE applied to the thick end of wedge implies a level of awareness that does not exist in the majority. I think the majority of work in a democratic society is most effectively done by suppressing critical thinking. In that regard, modern technology has made life easier because we're now able to accumulate opinions that placate anxieties of insignificance. What could be more comforting in a world that filters ambition down to the most ambitious.

    [some of this is sarcastic… I'm not sure how much]
  • May 5 2014: ...when we use technology for comforts or avoiding the effort, yes Dirk, you are right...but when we choose to utilize our efforts, energy and time for better quality work...technology enhances our critical thinking also...

    ...for a small example when someone needs to search some information, one gets and another wanders and plays with search engines only...

    ...it depends how we use the technology...yes we can have examples more favoring your apprehension...

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    May 3 2014: Absolutely, conformity and simplicity make the lives of those obsessed with power and control much more comfortable and dependable and more and more people are happy to let others do the thinking for them.
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    May 1 2014: I think modern technologies are asking our critical thinking a lot of questions. Some of them are easy, that's ok. Some of them are not so easy, that's ok, too. The technical things of life we have to match with will push our awareness to grow and our senses to be present. One thing I'm wondering about is the pure speed and the lack of time to rest. This is the biggest danger we can face, to be too tiered and without orientation for a rescue ..
  • May 1 2014: Dirk, another thumbs up champ.
    "Reading without talking about it seems lacking. What do you think?"

    "...One danger,.... discussion of the information shared needs to take place."

    I agree, TED conversations while interesting, easily turn into micro-spats, and either
    you're apologizing or arguing, not on topic, and the moderators require a certain decorum,
    be maintained or they wipe your opinionated remarks. Caustic criticisms of performer's
    talks are just not allowed by the TED conversations Team.

    I have no experience with Facebook nor Twitter, but there must be something out there,
    without a commercial aspect, which may be waiting to be discovered. Perhaps something
    multi-national, so we can blast the political and geographical governments without fear of

    We know what we need. We need to have technical help to build the project, and get the
    various governments to back the hell off and leave us be. An open forum without political
    and commercial pressures would be ideal. Otherwise, the internet is going to morph into
    another TV cable company. Damn. That will be awful.
  • May 1 2014: I would say about this, that technology involves different interfaces by providing possibilities of customization, which would provide decisions as framing, classifying, enhancing, as long as the possibility of expando comunnication thrughout interaction, I think this could be said throughout the 80's when a binary system was endorsed by a plattform with the BASIC language programming approach.

    Anyways, if you want to do some research, there are a lot of net-art works which would provide critical interaction, and sensorial experiences, transforming language into a expanded net of cultural referents which actually can be provided by icon verbs , creating then a higher network of significants provided by a rizomatc approach over postmodernity...
  • May 1 2014: Dirk, your comment below deserves a thumb up.

    We the people of the internet... You and I and Vera, and etc. We need to find a common
    way to communicate our intelligence, our intellectual properties, and our entire lives with
    everyone in the world. Bar none but the NSA and their ilk. They are the little mice that
    live inside the walls, stealing our cheese.

    Facebook, as I understand it was created by the CIA. Most likely a lie.

    But, while I was looking for an open source way out of this commercialized internet hell, I found a
    Linux program to use. After working with it for a bit, I noted it's history of design was created originally
    by the NSA. Damned Mice.

    Go figure...
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    Apr 29 2014: well, speaking for myself, no, Dirk, I am quite comfortable drifting into exotic, nonconformist interests. But I disagree with you, doesn't it seem like it's easier to research unusual things, let's say you want to know about people eating feces (just as an example), on the net now you could probably gets scads of info on it and maybe even watch videos on it?

    What effect it has on masses of people I don't know. Maybe it doesn't change masses much, the people who were going to be exotic are still exotic, and the people who were conformist are still conformist.
  • Apr 28 2014: It is alwas critical for creatures that when they find new things in simple way, they utilize it. Bt Greediness is the nature of creation, it run frm one to other thats why we run our mind more than previous. It is said that "Necessity is d mother of Discoveries" like that we always enhance our thoughts but relative to present age it seems small but actually it is not. We have more choice,connectivity and improvement of mind and space in the Universe.
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    Apr 28 2014: In my modest opinion over 90% of population do not have any slightest idea what they're using, what they're driving, and how those tech toys effect their own existence. Traditionally people would buy shoes from a shoemaker, though at least knowing what kind of material these shoes are made from, and more importantly they would know why exactly they need to use shoes.

    In our postmodern psychotic playhouse of technology we quickly replace first-hand experience with fantasies, not even with our fantasies, but those mass-produce substitutes of reality.

    Technology replaces our thinking process, gives us ready-to-go "answers" to our problems, and most frightening - it replaces real talent, especially rare original talent, because everyone can impress others with superficial effects instead of a real new idea. (We're so ignorant of history that we do not see how commonly old recycling ideas used and abused, so we see these "hits" as new inventions calling them "modern"!)

    The major problem whether we are dealing with sciences, arts or philosophy or mundane life, we are lost in endlessly undigested information, having no clue where we actually are and what we are doing.

    Great Werner Heisenberg has been writing about how dangerouse it is to let mindless industries massproduce those lab inventions which no one unstands clearly. In our age we are experiencing this very dangerouse idiocy in full bloom.

    We separate ourselves from nature in every possible way - losing our sense of reality, losing our minds and true life experience.
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      May 6 2014: Even though I agree with you and share your doubts I think that we are at a turning point again. Do you know Kondratieff? A russian thinker saying that everything happens in waves from progressive creativity in the wake of a "game changing" event/technology/breakthrough down to conservative reaction towards the end of a cycle. This is mirrored in the arts, literature, music,... basically everything.

      I believe that the last real game changer was the "net" or the commodification of the net... we are now going into the reactionary phase... what this means is - in my opinion - that some companies etc try to promote some game changer even though they arent't and that there is no current innovation just more for less.

      What does this mean in the context of this discussion?

      It means that I fear we are not only changing the game but are looking for a new fundament to base our beliefs on. The old schools of thinking (political, religious,...) have failed or are failing at least in the „western“ world as they do not keep up or are unable to keep up with technology. Technology however does not hold the answer but facilitates swarm intelligence or no rather thinking.

      And this is what makes so difficult for me as I want to follow the swarm based on ist inherent intelligence I doubt however the direction it is taking as the origins of its intelligence or thinking are not transparent for me or seem at least biased. Here I cannot blame corporations for wanting to influence this thinking by gathering as much information as possible to take away this burden of choosing from you...

      But before this is going into to much politics I will come back to this discussion... I have hope that we are at a turning point and that even though history is repeating and we are currently in the treadmil of reaction... there is a way forward and this way will be including technology but not be depending on it.
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        May 6 2014: Thanks for letting me know about Kondratieff, the economist. However, I do not think that economy is some natural event as the weather - it is an artificial man-made "system" that is vulnerable not only because of natural turns but also because of human mass psychology (often psychosis)

        Just want to share with you with my own experience regarding technology.

        It was a blessing for me to use synthesizers that could sample real musical instruments - to hire a ful-size 100 piece orchestra for playing my music would be a grand task for me.

        Here is my entirely original piece of music composed and performed by myself


        the music itself is authentically innovative - only a couple of outstanding musicians participated in this recording, saying "it's a rare treat".

        My point is that very many of us commonly use ready-to-go tools but for imitating patterns and styles. Only a few of us use tech toys for producing something originally creative. This is how nature have made us - the majority of us imitate, and some of us can invent, no matter what kinds of tools we use.

        P.S. A flute is a piece of ancient technology after all... The over 9000 years old flutes have been found in China..
  • Apr 27 2014: Technology is a tool, nothing more. How we use and view it is a different matter. In my mind there are 5 types of individuals:

    0. people who do not use the technology for what ever reason.
    1. people who use the technology, do not understand it, and misuses it
    2. people who use the technology, do not understand it, and uses it correctly (understands how to use it.)
    3. people who use the technology, understands it but does not use it correctly - they want the technology to give them the solutions to their problems with no effort on their part for them or are confused by all the options the technology has given them
    4. people who use the technology, understands it, and uses it correctly - they do not depend upon technology for a solution, just a tool to get them to a solution faster.

    I think too many people fall into the 1 and 3 category.
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      Apr 28 2014: Hmmm... this concept sounds familiar:
      - Unconscious incompetence
      - Concscious incompetence
      - Conscious competence
      - inconscious competence

      I think Pat adds an interesting argument to your point by saying that by focusing on growth the groups of 1 and 3 become more and more relevant (incl. 0 as they are "required" to bridge the gap from).

      The paradoxon here seems to be that by becoming even simpler to use technology we understand less and less what actually happens to us. Saying that we "misuse" technology is dificult as we do not misuse e.g. Facebook we use something for free and are surprised that someone wants to make money with us. :-)

      If the product is not sold to you, you are the product being sold... (I do not know who said it... but well so true...)
      • May 1 2014: By misuse, look at the growth of rules in the use of Facebook, Twitter, Craig's list, E-Bay, etc. Some technologies were designed to do one thing but people found holes or uses that it was not intended for.

        I, also, question the statement that is becoming simpler - more functions but not sure simpler. In the 1930's and 1940's Bell Lab Journal had a lot of articles on the human design of the rotary desk phone. The cradle for the handset was designed to also protect the disconnect button in case the phone was dropped or pulled off the desk (today, blow on a smart phone and you might disconnect it). The recess in the back was to allow people to easily carry it.

        Every so often I will re-read Don Norman's "The Design of Everyday Things" and look at what we have today and wonder if things were designed for people to use or to be flashy and just sell more.
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          May 6 2014: Has everything become simpler... I still believe so, as on the one side tools have become simpler to use (e.g. tablets, smartphones,...) and likes of facebook (likes) and google (+1) have allowed to influence decision taking using "swarm-intelligence" or big numbers of positive reviews etc do not lie... on the other hand I agree there are so many apps for so many parts of life that it is easy to get confused and lost in the sheer multitude.

          And again... marketing has done a great job is you just go for flashy instead of useful... see apple products... sigh...
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    Apr 27 2014: Technology is organic to man, despite conjecture to the contrary.

    The real concern is when technology is used to rent space in people's head. Today with the internet instant messaging. The question becomes what thoughts are mine and what ones are the ones that the powers to be want me focused on.

    This is particularly true in politics and economics. Edward Bernays would go nuts with all the tools available. People think that ideas are there own.

    We are told what we need to focus on. Not that we need a war, but who the target should be. Not whether the government should control the economy but in what manner. Oblivious of basic economic facts. The continual expansion of government forces people to work for government in order to make more money, true economic co-opting or else peonage in the private sector. The focus is on R vs D, without any attention given to alternatives. Focus is ingrained that all corporations are evil when the facts don't bear this out.

    The tail wags the dog, who's attention is guided to the straw man. Literally a matrix.
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      Apr 28 2014: Ha, is it paranoia? Is it rightful doubt? This has fascinated me for ages...

      Looking at our evergrowing markets I am always fascinated how we can increase this growth as it is not linear but exponential... what can you do? Either reduce cost or spread to new markets... Another idea is to "educate" the user into buying the latest technology because "random reason" and will market it heavily... we do not know what to do... but we need this new tool... thus perpetuating growth.

      Interesting however is the upcoming differentiation between tools and apps (until kind of seen as one in this discussion). Tools will get smaller and more powerful... but the apps that you use and the information you exchange will be the real value... which you will not see.. though.

      There are quite a few interesting books out there putting this argument forward such as "who owns the future" by Jaron Lanier. Fascinating as less data monopolies have more and more market share (Google, Facebook, Apple...) try not only to create closed systems to earn more money either with you or by selling the data you give them... or by using the given information to bind you further into their platforms... But what to do? Turn technology (tools) off? well... sounds like an interesting concept but in a networked world where most communication is actually done virtually this is more difficult than it seems.

      Yet again technology or corporations are not evil... but who or what is? This is where it becomes really interesting. Is it the shareholder who expects growth to bet rich? Somehow it is... we invest into anything that promises money... but try to shop green around the corner... where the money comes from (exploiting workers...) is not relevant.
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        Apr 28 2014: "Yet again technology or corporations are not evil... but who or what is?"

  • Apr 27 2014: No, although it has made lots of tasks easier it is not making us thing less, because we have new things to think about. Technology has made some parts easier like communicating and because this we will think better and more on the communication not on morse codes. See this talks: The rise of human computer cooperation, Shyam Sankar.
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      Apr 28 2014: Indeed, things get easier... but to what goal? We try to reduce effort to enjoy more freedom to do what we want? But what is it we want?

      Even though I am not a "believer" the singularity may not be as far of as we may want it to be. And what follows is currently left to writers... should it?

      We create learning systems to help us do... what? Do we hope that our creativity is what makes us different to machines?

      Thank you for the talk, I am certain to watch it!!!
      • Apr 29 2014: I agree you we have more freedom when tasks are easier. If I want to go back to telegraph and email now we have freedom to send "Hello" or a 10 page essay to someone but you don't want to do the second one unless you are a billionare.
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    Apr 25 2014: Greetings Dirk! I do believe that technology, media, etc. does influence so many of our choices. Our choice and opinions are still ours to make, but so many influential inputs come into play to veer us. Sigmund Freud and Edward Bernays knew this well. If corporations, advertising, etc. can "speak" to our inner selves they can get a stranglehold on us. If there were no such things as billboards, advertising, no senseless clutter, etc. I wonder how much "clearer" or more "critically" all of us could think. I often think of what the late Alan Watts said "we do not know where our decisions come from."
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      Apr 28 2014: Greetings Dennis... hmmm... where does this start? Is it us not understanding the psychological impact of e.g. advertisement? Is it lacking self confidence as there are so many choices to be made or expected to be made that you just take the easy way out? Try buying tooth paste... there are literally hundreds of them... ;-)

      I fear that not technology is the problem (tools and apps) but that we have no guidelines in using them... this is so new (quote from the German Chancellor Merkel...) that it is still like the wild west... which sounds weird in a world that is becoming more and more digital. But I move away from your point.

      I believe that we need to start moving away from freebies and accept paying money for services. As you typically are more critical for what you pay... again: If you are not sold a product you are the product being sold... thus making algorithms based on big data more and more reliable in predicting your behavior. In the end it is maths... We are currently facing the end of samples and the beginning of working with reality in our "models". This stranglehold will then be "inescapable".

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    Apr 25 2014: Tom Atlee ( Co-Intelligence Institute Founder and head) calls it "commmodification of ego" it has disengaged us from a "common purpose" and "community" but we allow that. It only works if we accept that. The key to changing that s us.
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      Apr 25 2014: That sounds interesting... this sounds like a model I would sign on the spot... I once read a quote saying: Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself! This is something that seems to be often neglected... without purpose, it is difficult to create yourself in "empty" space.

      I believe that society ("us") and its institutions are currently failing in providing a moral fundament and common vision to align or at least rub against. It may be a bit like puberty... you need an "opponent" to define yourself.
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        Apr 25 2014: It is easier sad than done...I am the first to confess..Our lives are s intimately and critically co entangled with internet & portable communications technology it is hard to establish a clear boundary between mere convenience and an arresting disempowering addiction and possibly manipulation.

        I live on a remote island my business, my banking & finances, my rich connection to an e-community are all dependent on my computer ( no cell service here so I am safe from that addiction & all the apps and temptations that go with that).

        It takes quite a bit of mindful and personal management to keep that boundary clear between convenience and commodification of ego..

        How do you manage that?
        • Apr 25 2014: "An arresting disempowering addiction and possibly manipulation"? You mean, like humanity's addiction to writing for so many centuries?
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        Apr 25 2014: Bryan no, not at all, ..telecommunications and the internet are just tools. How we use them can enrich or alienate, serve life and earth or just serve our own needs..

        Would you say there is a difference between writing with an expectation/hope of audience and writing to tell the world what you think and how you feel. Even in writing there is a line but what is pure ego and serve no one and what expresses humanity.
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          Apr 28 2014: couldn't you go further and say that anything that provokes an answers (positive or negative) is valuable as it supports the definition of an individual opinion?
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        Apr 28 2014: Hi Dirk..I wouldn't classify /dichotomize as positive or negative nor set the goal as necessarily "opinion"..but yes whatever calls out or encourages independent critical thinking is a worthy aim..whatever elevates above meme and "mere opinion" or pre canned ideology is valuable. Differences that may result are part of the creative tension and creative process..if we only take and listen to people who already agree with us we will eventually lose ground even if we started on solid ground.. Our shared views in a group that holds the same views and opinions will decline to mere opinion and meme.
    • Apr 25 2014: Here is my heresy: Perhaps this whole "common purpose" thing is just an accommodation forced upon us by our own individual weakness. We have been indoctrinated and propagandized to think of it as an unmixed good, under all circumstances. Since this thought is a heresy, I expect it to be rejected, of course.
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        Apr 25 2014: What serves life and serves earth has an infinite number of expressions and possibilities and each of us has some unique capacity to offer.

        Our host asked whether technology has homogenized us to a pont where we no longer even try to do our own research, do our own thinking, form our own purpose and intent.

        I answered that we can't blame technology..that always within us, we can choose.

        Life isn't about persuading other people or getting others to agree with us or judging what others do is it? Isn't our own life t our own creation and our own responsbility?
        • Apr 25 2014: I did not create my genome. I did not create my parents. I did not create most of reality. While my life is my responsibility, the vast majority of it is not my creation. The vast majority of it got dumped on me and I have to deal with it and make the best with what I got. Everybody else is in the same boat, but Donald Trump got a much nicer dump than I got.

          That being said, I agree with you: Most people have NEVER done their own research, done their own thinking, nor formed their own purpose and intent. Indeed, the majority of human societies are designed primarily around preventing such activity for most of their members. Comfort is the promised reward, not achievement, not individuation. Do what you are told. Go to school. Get a job. Consume. Keep your head down. Don't stick out except in ways that can be easily commercialized. In reward, you will get comfort. Think for yourself? Only permitted if you think for yourself exactly like everyone else who is thinking for himself is thinking.

          THAT being said, I'm hard-wired to not fit. Autism can have benefits. I have been forced to find my own way my entire life, which means I am trained to think about finding my own way instead of copying everyone else's apparent success. Most people aren't that fortunate. They've got the burden and handicap of being normal. By and large, they're as virtuous as they can be and rather pleasant to be around (in small doses), but they're stuck in ruts so deep and wide (so many in the same ruts) that they deny the ruts exist.
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        Apr 26 2014: Bryan..Yes I agree that if we are already "outside the box" by virtue of an illness or just our inherent self we are less prone to just accept others opinions or even to operate in a mode that is based on a currency of opinion..

        I agree that is a pre condition for invention and creativity.

        My inherent self was also "out of the box" from the get go and I love the internet because it allows me to explore deeply things I want to understand and know and along the way I meet folk who are already there.

        So the internet doesn't automatically homogenize..it can equally well if the user is so disposed to support inquiry in a very individuated way that supports creativity and develops new insight and information ..

        Backaways here at TED conversation we had lots of discussions on memes.which can propagate so quickly and widely with the internet that they become accepted as truth or at least as normative belief.

        I agree that people whose identity and social engagement is base on mere opinion and memes are not enriching to be around and that that mode of "community" ( shared memes and opinions) are not themselves "full empowered"

        I am interested to know whether you have found that the internet allows you to be fully empowered. How do you use tit fro both community and for information?
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          Apr 28 2014: Hmmm... The answer depends on who you are talking to. I am rather independent in my thinking and basically doubt everything but with a friendly curiosity not paranoia. This helps to remain critical while not offending anyone as I accept opinions but leave it open to believe or follow them.

          Looking at kids for example who may not all be as independent this becomes trickier... as group opinions become or can become oppressing and you tend to believe in things because every one else does it as well. Facts become irrelevant if not propagated by the leading "opinion" leader.

          This way I typically read widely and use several sources for information. Communities are more difficult as there are some without serious involvement like linked in or facebook which serve being on top of your network news and some where you come to discuss and debate interesting topcs e.g. TED :-)
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        Apr 28 2014: Dirk (hmmm the answer depends...) yes, it is only a tool but has uniquely emerged to foser and create community through things like TED and Face Book etc. It is up to us how we use it and children who are shown and encouraged to use it for idependent exploration to form independent thinking will be well served by it.
  • Apr 24 2014: It would seem, based on my limited experience, that a great many people, especially younger ones who are more dependent on technology, are unable to articulate their own thoughts. They seem more dependent on talking points and do not think through a given position. This was also true in the 50's and 60's when people would simply repeat what they had heard on a radio or TV news broadcast, but when challenged were not able to carry the thought out. So, with the advancements in technology the. 'I believe it, therefore it is true' mentality has increased accordingly.
    Lives and intellects are being simplified to the point, no simplified would not be a correct characterization, stratifying or molding of intellects would be a better fit.
    The assertion of a man made climate change, which will have cataclysmic effects on the planet is a good example. So many people, especially the young, have accepted this assertion as if it were a dogma. They do not question, nor do they put themselves in a position to listen to a dissenting view. Dissenters are vilified, demeaned and dismissed (the VD effect), This conduct is in accordance with an environmentalist and political view, which is advanced by almost everything one might encounter on the internet
    Yes, to your question, "Are we outsourcing our opinion?" And our minds.
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      Apr 24 2014: This is exactly what I fear or what I believe to observe. Going further I believe that in our current gamified society short term happiness is based on easy success in playing silly games which take away the necessity of "deep thought". What cannot be grasped within let's say 5 minutes is not interesting or not relevant. The likes of facebook are growing as a potential replacement for social intercourse as not a debate is wanted but approval (aka likes...) to assure us of belonging somewhere and doing the right thing.

      That this right thing is kind of supported by algorithms based on our preferences and comments actually closes this vicious circle and traps us in a world of potential ignorance while we enjoy common applause. Faced with day to day complexities such as climate change, pollution, corruption, crime, ... you name it we surrender to the mass of information and try to stick to simple and repeatable phrases. I just read an interesting book on this and here the following quote may be useful: We are not overloaded by information, our filters fail...

      IN this context I am not saying that technology is bad or we are going down the drain... I just think that the ancient bread and games of the roman colosseum are even more apparent today than they ever were. Another interesting book to further this idea is "In mistrust we trust" from the TED library discussing the idea or concept of democracy if no one trusts in its pillars: Law and government where are we going?

      Again these topics do require thinking and interacting with peers to tackle ideas and argue about it accepting differing opinions and the pain of working on your point of view... However this intellectual effort as you say may be to much for some...

      Where would you think we can correct or work on improving the current state?
      • Apr 24 2014: Dirk

        Some excellent points and for the most, I believe. we are in agreement.
        Technology, I fear, has robbed us of our most important communication tool and that, as you say, is human interaction, face to face, human to human contact. Without such relations, as we see here on TED, words without identities, histories and personalities. I refer to those who do not identify or use fictitious names. It is, as if, they are afraid of being human, of taking responsibility for their words. They use technology as a mask, as so many now do.
        Circus Maximus. Keep the people busy and occupied with insignificance and trivialities. There is no better tool than technology to attract and snare so many in the pursuit of pettiness."Little things please little minds"
        How to correct this aberration?
        Rome created the Circus, the pursuit of the petty to divert the peoples attention. Nothing has changed here; Rome is still in charge. If this is true the question than is, to what end? Democracy in a detached and afflicted society. Democracy than becomes a one way street and it has nothing to do with freedom and the words of Marx are once again with us.
        Fifty + years ago I stumbled on a word while serving in the US military in a place called Thule Greenland, a beautiful, but desolate outpost of the Cold War. Essence was the word and all things have an Essence, but what of humanity. In viewing The Great Land Glacier, I wondered of its Essence. The first snow flake that fell and what of its essence?
        Reason, the capacity to, is our Essence. Sadly there is little attention or expectation to reason. It is not in the best interest of a government to have a reasoning population. Such is difficult than to motivate to war, to entice with a welfare State, to ensnare with trivia and greed, to motivate with emotional garbage.
        Solution; reason for the sake of reason without prejudice. That, I believe is a conversation worth having.
        "In mistrust we trust"--outstanding.
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          Apr 24 2014: Charles, you speak directly to my heart and I agree to every point you make! I actually read a fascinating book by Erich Fromm (German/US american psycho analyst) called "To have or to Be" (German "Haben oder Sein"), where he discussed the concepts you mention. To his opinion there are two general streams people who define themselves by their possessions (To Have) and those who define themselves by what they are and what they have learned (To Be). Both sides have their pros and cons, even though I currently believe that we should have more "to Be" people that listen to reason instead of being envious of others possessions.

          You are right this is a conversation to have and I hope to "convince" others around myself here in Germany of the beauty of science, art, literature and all others areas that provoke thinking and force people to have an opinion.

          And again you are right by saying that a mature population is not what a government wants, as this population would actually ask difficult questions and demand useful answers... what we currently get is blablabla... leading to postponing solutions until well... sometime in the far future.
      • Apr 24 2014: Dirk

        You posed some very interesting points, which I am compelled to respond to. I hope you don't mind.
        To your point of instant gratification and a 'now' society. We are beginning to legalize marijuana, a drug that typifies such a society. A drug that isolates the mind and encases it with indifference, a drug that would best be described as an anti-alacrity substance best utilized to disarm and disable meaningful participation in a society or a government. To the previous post; sold at the concessionaires booth just inside the Circus Maximus.
        As to the value of a democracy when the majority are dependent on government for welfare, when professors and scientists greedily vie for and prostitute their position for corporate and government grants, when politicians buy the votes of the citizens with their own money, when supposed capitalistic greed is bettered by the greed of the indigent for unearned and undeserved money, there is no value.
        Agreed; technology is not bad. Prostitution is not bad, but it can be. Fire is not bad. Water is not bad.

        "The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes
        of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe."
        Albert Einstein, 1946

        An understatement! What would he have to say about the computer age?
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          Apr 24 2014: "Opiates for the masses"... let them indulge (I like this word, thank you Rodrigo) in distractions and games... this way they will not interfere...

          It is a shame... but what is the source of the problem is it education, is it religion, is it politics? What is it that "went wrong in the state of Denmark"?

          This could be an interesting additional thread, what is your take on this?
    • Apr 27 2014: I don't think like you as I said in my answer technology made tools like E-mail so we focus on our text not on Morse codes.
      • Apr 27 2014: Navid

        Not sure who you are addressing or what is meant by, morse codes.
        • Apr 27 2014: Any Hard thing you should Memorize e.g. memorizing morse code to write .... . .-.. .-.. --- and then read it Hello.
  • Apr 24 2014: The most horrible thing about technology is that it allows humans to be even more human!

    Just roll with me for a moment.

    So many of the manners and mores of elder days began as necessary adjustments to the limits of human frailty. Why develop the belles lettres (look it up) and be a bon vivant? Why learn to at least not embarass yourself in the art of conversation? You had no choice. If you wanted entertainment, you'd have to go out and be with other people. Likewise, one had to have broad interests since you really couldn't control who you were with (not to the extent we can today).

    Enter technology (about a few thousand years ago). The first great and horrible disaster--excuse me--GREAT AN HORRIBLE DISASTER--was the introduction of vile, pernicious, horrid artifice that weakened the mind and destroyed memory. I refer, of course, to writing. Plato had Socrates explain it far better than I ever could, so I turn the matter over to the old man for a moment:

    "For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise....
    And so it is with written words; you might think they spoke as if they had intelligence, but if you question them, wishing to know about their sayings, they always say only one and the same thing. And every when once it is written, is bandied about, alike among those who understand and those who have no interest in it, and it knows not to whom to speak or not to speak..."
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      Apr 24 2014: Hahaha, excellent point! And we have moved further from writing on paper to the "art" of typing on keyboards and sending info bytes to one another.

      The difference is gruesome. Letters as evil as they may be still contain a set of thoughts structured in a way that facilitates the reader the understanding and recapitulation of the writers point of view. This even though it does weaken direct interaction allows for valuable information exchange.

      E-Mails, tweets,... however are mostly info flashes with no meaning, background or thinking. They provide instantaneous sentiments and feelings you can like or not... but these do not allow for actual debates.

      Regarding the given quote they tempt me into doing my basics again and study the ancients masterpieces to learn and appreciate the art of formulating thoughts. Alas, much is lost and manipulation of the masses has become easier again as only a few still understand when and how they are influenced.

      I just love the three key pillars from 1984:
      - Ignorance is strength
      - War is peace
      - Freedom is slavery

      These do fit so well to all times. What do you think?
      • Apr 24 2014: E-mails, tweets--flashes with no meaning, background, or thinking.

        You mean to say that they are even closer to actual natural conversation than any older medium, of course. Natural conversation more often than not has no meaning, background, or thinking. The vast majority of human communication is identical to monkey mutual grooming. This has been well established by both natural and social scientists.

        Regarding "the masses", they're no easier to manipulate now than before. We just hear more about the effects.
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          Apr 24 2014: I like the picture you are drawing, but how do we evolve from grooming to growing? By fighting and hitting each other with sticks or worse? ;-)

          Would you believe then that you should either choose an opponent who promotes the opposite of what you believe in or rather have an advocatus diaboli who challenges you let's say on a friendly basis?

          "The masses" are somehow degrading again... I thought that in the past 30 years or right after the swinging sixties the masses were more confident and thoughtful or at least provocative... nowadays with farmville, World of warcraft, flabby whatever... the masses kind of remain in a stupor of ignorance... I think it has become easier... as more and more people start believing in networked information which as such seems easier to infiltrate and manipulate.

          But back to the original argument, would you then say that moving away from the spoken word and its virtues has been the beginning of the downfall?
      • Apr 24 2014: We are culturally prohibited from distinguishing between ideas and identity. If I question your idea or opinion, I question your right to live. That is the fundamental basis of modern discourse. Some of us ignore this prohibition but do so at our own peril. The concept of crossing blades without deadly intent no longer exists. We are expected to even be murderous-at-heart at the level of peewee sports, although we pretend to be outraged if someone actually acts on such attitudes.
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          Apr 28 2014: A shame... crossing blades for educational purposes are important to sharpen your wit! And I agree earlier in our history gladiators were killed to amuse the people (some of them highly professional) and today it is mass media events with some sports but highly paid professionals as well.

          Let's keep crossing blades even at our peril.
  • Apr 23 2014: What do you mean by your opinion be streamlined?
    [streem-lahynd] Show IPA
    having a contour designed to offer the least possible resistance to a current of air, water, etc.; optimally shaped for motion or conductivity. Source(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/streamlined?s=t)

    Technology is helping us to think better. We have tools such I-Pads or tablets or computer which have access to the internet so that a person can find out the facts before forming an opinion. You have a choice of whether you accept those preferences recommended by Facebook or Amazon.
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      Apr 24 2014: My definition of streamlined would be that you are quickly categorized in a cluster where your preferences put you. This is on the one side helpful because the vast choice of possibilities is filtered down to things you seem to like, but on the other side you only get recommendations you already like and thus filter out disagreeing thinking or ideas.

      And you are right not technology as such is the problem but how people use it and how society embraces the temptation of giving away the capability of critical thinking... imagine your biggest problem being to get to lvl 99 in a mmorpg like World of Warcraft or any other comparable game.
      • Apr 24 2014: Technology is not the issue. This was a matter of contention decades ago, where the issue was an overall change in society. Instead of people having experience determine their beliefs, they had begun having beliefs determined their experiences. "I'm liberal, so I only read..." was explicitly cited as a problem--and this was in a publication at my rather liberal college. Doctrine and dogma came first, learning second.
  • Apr 23 2014: We indulge in distraction. When we get bored of it we indulge in the opposite.
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      Apr 24 2014: If this is a normal distribution the vast majority is somewhere in between... what do they do? And what does this mean for us? Are we doomed to lose our humanity as we either don't care or want to do it to well? What is your thinking here?
      • Apr 24 2014: As the global human population grows the average human being becomes older and wiser. People get bored. Males are more indulgent than females. The young are more indulgent than the old. There will be more old ladies telling little boys to "turn off the TV!"
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          Apr 24 2014: Your thinking sounds cynical, is this correct? Males are indeed more indulgent and I think it is about time that women gain more rights and positions so that we can get back to facing reality and not some male domination fantasies...
      • Apr 24 2014: People get bored - with technology, too. People are becoming older and wiser - with technology, too.