The main idea that is being promoted throughout the book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle, is that, as time goes on, people grow increasingly depended on technology – even within the context of how they go about addressing their socialization-related anxieties.
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To justify the validity of her suggestion, in this respect, Turkle points out to the phenomenon of more and more individuals deciding in favor of robots/robotized dolls, as their intimate companions: “We come to see what robots offer as relationship. The simplification of relationship is no longer a source of complaint. It becomes what we want” (Turkle 27).
The author also brings readers’ attention to the fact that the Internet has long ago ceased being solely the instrument of informational transactions – as of today, it became nothing less of an ‘alternative reality’ for many individuals, who clearly prefer it to the surrounding de facto reality. According to Turkle, the earlier mentioned state of affairs can hardly be considered thoroughly appropriate, because it results in the increased ‘atomization’ of Western societies, which in turn undermines these societies’ structural integrity from within.
Moreover, according to Turkle, the fact that humanity grows increasingly dependent on the technology’s ability to simulate the ‘desirable reality’, has a negative influence on the measure of the affected individuals’ mental adequacy. As she pointed out: “I believe that in our culture of (technology-induced) simulation, the notion of authenticity is for us what sex was for the Victorians – threat and obsession, taboo and fascination” (Turkle 16). This, of course, adds to the overall spirit of ‘technological pessimism’, emanated by the book in question.
Even though Turkle indeed deserves to be given a credit, on the account of the book’s line of argumentation being discursively legitimate, there are nevertheless a number of drawbacks to how the author argues her point. The main of them can well be deemed the implication that, as it appears from the book, Turkle happened to believe that people’s obsession with the companionship-simulating technological gadgets/virtual reality is something necessarily ‘unnatural’ and therefore – counterproductive, in the psychological sense of this word: “Online, we can lose confidence that we are communicating or cared for. Confused, we may seek solace in even more connection” (Turkle 258).
Nevertheless, even though there are indeed a number of indications that people’s increased tendency to rely on technology (when it comes to satisfying their companionship-related longings) cannot be considered particularly ‘healthy’, there is nothing truly odd about it. After all, people’s ability to pursue with leading a highly sociable lifestyle appears to be environmentally predetermined.
This explains why it is specifically the rurally based individuals, utterly dependent on agriculture, who happened to be known for the sheer strength of their commitment to the virtues of a socially integrated communal living. The reason for this is apparent – the very realities of such a living naturally presuppose one to function as the society’s integral part.
In the highly urbanized Western societies, on the other hand, this could not be the case, by definition – being technologically advanced, these societies produce more than enough of the so-called ‘surplus product’, which in turn makes it possible for people to succeed in claiming their environmental niche, without having to organize themselves in ‘packs’.
Therefore, the phenomenon of people’s technology-induced ‘alienation’ cannot be discussed outside of what happened to be the qualitative specifics of a post-industrial living, which in turn came about as one of the by-products of the ongoing process of Western societies becoming ever more urbanized. In plain words, the reason why, as time goes on, more and more people end up choosing in favor of socially alienated lifestyles (which is being reflected by the concerned individuals’ tendency to enter into the ‘surrogate’ emotional relationships with their technologically advanced gadgets), is that the very evolutionary laws of history have predetermined it to be the case. Therefore, the author’s predisposition to discuss the mentioned phenomenon in predominantly negative terms, does not appear to be thoroughly justified.
What contributes even further to the fact that Turkle’s line of argumentation, deployed throughout her book, cannot be referred to as such that represents an undisputed truth-value, is that many claims, contained in Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, are rather speculative.
For example, according to the author: “We allow ourselves to be comforted by unrequited love, for there is no robot that can ever love us back” (Turkle 253). Apparently, it never occurred to Turkle that, because just about any human emotion can be assessed with the methodological framework of cybernetics, there is very little rationale in believing that robots will forever remain unemotional.
Nevertheless, as it was implied earlier, Turkle’s book does in fact contain a number of valuable insights into what account for the qualitative aspects of the Western civilization continuing to remain on the path of progress. Therefore, there can be only a few doubts that the reading this particular book will come in handy for just about anyone, interested in researching the concerned subject matter at length.
Turkle, Sherry. Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.