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Old 02-20-2011, 07:26 PM
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Default Does Technology really make us Unhappy?

On these boards, I see many fingers pointed at technology claiming that it is a human vice. I see many people here claim, “Technology makes us unhappy” but is it really technology that is the source of so much unhappiness with modern society or have we perhaps missed the mark?

According to various surveys and studies, human happiness has steadily risen in the United States with a peak in the late 1950s but steadily declined afterwards. If technology is really the source of all of our unhappiness, we would expect to see happiness continually decrease since ancient times but that apparently is not the case. So what really did happen? I think the source of our unhappiness with modern society stems from a recent shift in our mindset – the rise of consumerism.



Consumerism is a new social order in which the economy is increasing reliant upon individuals purchasing more and more goods. The more goods that are being bought and sold, the better off the economy is and in turn, the “better off we are.” But if I have more, am I really better off? Companies would like you to believe that. If I own ten pairs of shoes, am I any “better off” than an individual single pair of shoes? We both can walk without having to worry about blisters or cuts on our feet. Our physical needs are satisfied but we still keep purchasing new and useless things because we have come to believe that these latest and greatest products will provide for us in other ways – that they will make us happy.



Long ago, advertisers followed the concept of marketing products based upon their utility. This reflected the general idea of the time that humans responded best to rational arguments; however, advertising’s focus has shifted recently to paint products as giving or providing happiness. The ways they do it are very subtle. They do not come out and say directly but they hint at certain things. For ex: If you do not buy your family this product for Christmas, then you do not love them (making you unhappy as a result). If they ever came out and said that openly like this satirical poster above me, we would never buy into it so they cleverly disguise it.



One has to wonder whether a bottle of coke really makes your relationship any better. Personally, if I had a relationship in which a bottle of coke was the deciding factor, then I should probably be scrambling to get out of it.

Not only do companies produce goods and services, but now they decide for you what you will buy. We have come to expect the media to “guide” us. Everyone wants that fancy pair of shoes, fast car, or large house because some advertisement or endorsement said so.

We are chasing a dream. We buy the latest goods because there is always something “more.” If you ever do manage to reach the point of “living the good life” the crash happens. There is nothing left to chase. After years of chasing what the media fed to them, they are finally free and all of a sudden find themselves without a goal or purpose in life. They cease to live spiritually.

We are chasing the prized GDP value. The more buying, the more selling, the better. The products that we really do need are no longer made to last. If your poorly made toaster breaks and you have to buy a new one, the GDP goes up. They also try to get us buy things we do not need and it is all in the name of economic growth. We have supposedly advanced technologically but that is not reflected in the way we live. We still work long eight or twelve hour shifts a day not because we have to in order to live comfortably but because we feel that we need more goods to live comfortably.

We are chasing perfection. We chase perfection as defined by some media outlet and not our own definition. We let others decide for us what we should buy, what is enjoyable, and who is beautiful. The last case especially is very appalling. I think some of the so called “supermodels” are absolutely hideous. If you ever pay attention to the subtleties of the ads, most of their bodies are anatomically impossible. They do not even exist as real people.

Overall I like technology. I like having a pair of shoes so that I can walk without worrying about cuts to my feet, I like medicine that keeps me healthy, I like cars that get me to places, but I do not like having twenty pairs of shoes for the sake of looking fancy, being hooked up to tubes just so I can live for another five hours, or having to buy a new car because its in fashion. In my opinion, a lot of the people who say that technology is bad for us yearn for a world where the “human element” returns. Technology is not the culprit but rather our attitude towards material possessions.

Last edited by Banefull; 02-20-2011 at 07:34 PM.
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Old 02-20-2011, 08:30 PM
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Damn right about consumerism! Have you by any chance ever seen Fight Club?

Though I still believe distancing ourselves from nature is another part of the problem. We're biophilic creatures by nature, and walling ourselves off from nature like the modern human does, is denying a fundamental part of our being. We need a way to advance, while still staying close to Mama Nature (afterall, we are part of nature). I have my theories, but pitching it to a world enamored with the dominant is near impossible.

I think the Internet has been both a blessing and a curse. A blessing for it's informational and communicational value, but at the same time a curse for it's, again, communicational value. Facebook might allow people to know more people, but at the same time keeps them from really knowing people. It keeps people from having the same deep, emotionally satisfying relationships that people could have if they met people in the real world, as it was meant to be. Social media has become something about quantity, rather than quality. I sometimes wonder how many people have walled themselves away from the world, netted several hundred online friends, but then has no real friends, in the real world, to speak of. We're trying to satisfy our social needs through a screen, and it's failing miserably.

In many ways, technology has gone from being a tool to being a lifestyle, and it isn't working out so well.
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Old 02-20-2011, 11:47 PM
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I agree. Technology isn't the problem. It's the way we think and the places we search for happiness and fulfillment, both of which are internal.
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Old 02-21-2011, 01:33 AM
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Technology is not the primary reason why people are unhappy, its the missuse of it that make it turn aganst us. Consumerisum is the very thing that Technology is making people unhappy. The 1950s was the start of it all because it was the time where wars finally stopped and the U.S. Corporations could finally get the most profits from the citizans. Cars, Highway system, Fast Food, T.V. and advertising. Mixed in with the Conformedy at the time, Consumerisum became apart of every americans' lives and it has servived to this day and is still a big part in society. Consumerisum is the reason why the most distructive force is here: Greed.

With Corparations expanding, they gain more and more by providing things that people don't need but exicivly buy. That inturn creates greed and as we've seen, it is unimagiably destructive. This is why technology is considered to be degrading humanity and seperating it from nature to.

But I do believe that Technology can help humanity if we know how to use it properly. I recently watched Star Trek: First Contact and Patrick Stewert said that when the Enterprise ws built, they didn't use money to build it. Because Humans made first contact with the Vallcans, they advanced Human technology and the Star fleet Economy is based on need and not about what money is available. With the Technology, poverty, diease and Homelessness are eliminated, greed doesn't exist without money and a society was created which still has the human element and isn't a perfect utopia.

Technology can lead us to salvation if we find a way to put it into the right hands.
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Old 02-21-2011, 03:17 AM
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Yeah, technology isn't really what makes us unhappy. (If that were true, I'd grit my teeth everytime I logged on to ToS!) Rather, it's how we use or mis-use it.

And consumerism ain't too good either. Accumulation of products, material wealth, things that will not last...I believe it's all more or less futile in the end!
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Old 02-21-2011, 04:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rainbowhawk1993 View Post
Technology is not the primary reason why people are unhappy, its the missuse of it that make it turn aganst us. Consumerisum is the very thing that Technology is making people unhappy. The 1950s was the start of it all because it was the time where wars finally stopped and the U.S. Corporations could finally get the most profits from the citizans. Cars, Highway system, Fast Food, T.V. and advertising. Mixed in with the Conformedy at the time, Consumerisum became apart of every americans' lives and it has servived to this day and is still a big part in society. Consumerisum is the reason why the most distructive force is here: Greed.

With Corparations expanding, they gain more and more by providing things that people don't need but exicivly buy. That inturn creates greed and as we've seen, it is unimagiably destructive. This is why technology is considered to be degrading humanity and seperating it from nature to.

But I do believe that Technology can help humanity if we know how to use it properly. I recently watched Star Trek: First Contact and Patrick Stewert said that when the Enterprise ws built, they didn't use money to build it. Because Humans made first contact with the Vallcans, they advanced Human technology and the Star fleet Economy is based on need and not about what money is available. With the Technology, poverty, diease and Homelessness are eliminated, greed doesn't exist without money and a society was created which still has the human element and isn't a perfect utopia.

Technology can lead us to salvation if we find a way to put it into the right hands.
That's one of the problems with money, or at least fiat money. Speculation. A whole portion of our economy isn't even based on tangible goods, it's based on guesses about the future of these goods, and people make money regardless of what happens to these goods in the future. They can make money from people starving in the streets. So many of the problems of the world today are caused by people rigging the markets to benefit their investments in speculative trading. It's a curse on this planet.

Which is why we need a resource-based economy. An economy based solely on the goods themselves, not on their assigned, intangible value, and not on where they may go in the future.

Resource Based Economy
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Old 02-21-2011, 05:52 AM
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Video games make me happy ^.^
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Old 02-21-2011, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Elyannia View Post
Video games make me happy ^.^
I do like playing Video games. But I'm not a total game buyer to buy every game out there. I like to get games that have good game play and good story. I don't buy what everyone is buying, i.e.- Grand Theft Auto. I just buy games like Dues ex, starcraft, and Mario Wii games.

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Originally Posted by Tsyal Makto View Post

I think the Internet has been both a blessing and a curse. A blessing for it's informational and communicational value, but at the same time a curse for it's, again, communicational value. Facebook might allow people to know more people, but at the same time keeps them from really knowing people. It keeps people from having the same deep, emotionally satisfying relationships that people could have if they met people in the real world, as it was meant to be. Social media has become something about quantity, rather than quality. I sometimes wonder how many people have walled themselves away from the world, netted several hundred online friends, but then has no real friends, in the real world, to speak of. We're trying to satisfy our social needs through a screen, and it's failing miserably.
That's the sol reason I'm agenst Facebook.
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Old 02-21-2011, 09:51 PM
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So I obviously will say something here that contradicts some of what was said.

I do however agree to the full extent that consumerism, an invention by capitalist businessmen in the midst of the 20th century is a major source of the unhappiness. What is happening there is that consumption, buying, shopping has become a mimickry for other things that make us happy - the idea is simple - you work hard, earn a lot of money and then can buy happiness. In the meantime that process eroded away interpersonal relationships (friends become co-workers or competitors in the race for wealth and money, children become a financial burden, relationships to parents are going away as they are put in the best retirement homes the family can afford, the children put in childcare while both parents labor away). What also goes away is spirituality and connectedness. Individualism is ranking high and it is a state of being that only for a short time is appealing to humans - underneath we are social beings.

These things we are missing then - social connection, spirituality, family, friends, connectedness are then sold back to us in a mimickry - as social networking websites, yoga classes, internet forums (sorry, ToS ), as being a "apple person" or a "volvo driver". Consumerism is the apex of using psychology to leech on every human desire and need and replace the things that could fulfil these needs to satisfaction with a mimic that sells good and does not sate the hunger. The result is a society of people who are deeply lacking the regular human needs and feat on replacements that do not help. It is like people craving for apples and being served flavored styrofoam instead - it looks good, it tastes good, it fills the stomach for a while but eventually it does not satisfy the hunger and eventually makes us sick.

But I am also not convinced that "technology is neutral" and it solely depends on the use, because the use is also influenced by technology. Some technologies have a detrimental effect all by themselves - it may be balanced by upsides, but the downsides are there. An example are cellphones - the downsides are social isolation in real life because people are walking by each other staring at their little screens, people call each other instead of meeting, they text each other instead of talking. No "wise use" or non-consumerist society can really eliminate these effects. The upsides are of course a more convenient way to call someone and access to information and emergency calls - but the two areas play in different ballparks. One is a deeply emotional aspect - human personal face-to-face or voice-to-voice contact that is changed often to the negative. The other is a nonemotional but rather intellectual benefit in terms of effectiveness and information. Technology often does that - it trades emotional, spiritual, inter- and intrapersonal connection for gains on the level of comfort, convenience, intellect and information. And that I believe contributes to the unhappiness as well, because we as humans are evolved to be social, emotional, spiritual beings and this is what makes us happy, not information and comforts.
I am not saying that being comfortable makes us unhappy - but that the way technology often works is that it takes away something in return. It is a deal and the question is what is the price and are we willing to pay it.

I do not know that statistics on happiness that supposedly has steadily risen up to 1950, I'd like to see that and how far back it goes, but one explanation is what is called the law of diminishing returns. If I am living in a village in prehistoric Australia and I eat some good fruit. I take the seeds of that fruit that I cannot eat anyways and bury them next to the village. 5 years later there is a tree with that delicious fruit and I just have to go over there to pick them. I invested little but gained a lot. As "development" progresses, the efforts rise and the returns diminish. Grain agriculture will give the chance of a surplus, of a grain storage, but to tend to the fields takes a lot of physical work and I spend a lot more time and energy keeping that up, still the return is worth it for some. But at some time in the development a point is reached at which each increase in payback requires a ever larger investment and there is a threshold where that cannot work out anymore. And I think we have in many parts passed that point.

Another example for that is alcohol. If you know a bit on chemistry, you can distill wine to get alcohol. At first, you get something with 60% alcohol, distill it again and it will be 80% and if you continue distilling it all over again with the same effort for each run, you get to 90%, 95%, 99%, 99.5%, 99.8%, 99,9%,.... so with every round, the increase in comparison to the previous one is less and less for the same effort.

The reason why there was such a boost in the 20th century was because fossil fuels were found - that allowed for an increase in quality/quantity without having to notice the cost so much. Basically the oil and coal did the work and we got the benefits, the oil runs the distillery and it is not a lot of effort to run it 3 or 4 times now compared to before. But we quickly got used to that new level and now we are hooked on that energy subsidy. As we are now facing a time in which we cannot ramp up energy production easily and we notice that after all there was a price for that benefits (in terms of global warming, ecological destruction and diminishing our environment) the gains become questionable. We still like them of course, but we become aware of the true price we have to pay for them. And that surely contributes to unhappiness.
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Old 02-21-2011, 10:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Rainbowhawk1993 View Post
I do like playing Video games. But I'm not a total game buyer to buy every game out there. I like to get games that have good game play and good story. I don't buy what everyone is buying, i.e.- Grand Theft Auto. I just buy games like Dues ex, starcraft, and Mario Wii games.



That's the sol reason I'm agenst Facebook.
I play anything that isn't first person or a shooter. But then again I see Video Games more as an art than part of consumerism.
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Old 02-21-2011, 10:32 PM
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Originally Posted by auroraglacialis View Post
But I am also not convinced that "technology is neutral" and it solely depends on the use, because the use is also influenced by technology. Some technologies have a detrimental effect all by themselves - it may be balanced by upsides, but the downsides are there. An example are cellphones - the downsides are social isolation in real life because people are walking by each other staring at their little screens, people call each other instead of meeting, they text each other instead of talking. No "wise use" or non-consumerist society can really eliminate these effects. The upsides are of course a more convenient way to call someone and access to information and emergency calls - but the two areas play in different ballparks. One is a deeply emotional aspect - human personal face-to-face or voice-to-voice contact that is changed often to the negative. The other is a nonemotional but rather intellectual benefit in terms of effectiveness and information. Technology often does that - it trades emotional, spiritual, inter- and intrapersonal connection for gains on the level of comfort, convenience, intellect and information. And that I believe contributes to the unhappiness as well, because we as humans are evolved to be social, emotional, spiritual beings and this is what makes us happy, not information and comforts.
I am not saying that being comfortable makes us unhappy - but that the way technology often works is that it takes away something in return. It is a deal and the question is what is the price and are we willing to pay it.
That's just faulty reasoning, since technology is only a tool that enables us to do more, and whatever we choose to do with it, is entirely up to us. You don't blame the tool for the faults of the user, and the fault is, and always will be, in us.
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Old 02-22-2011, 12:43 AM
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It's a tool, the same as any other. You might as well ask 'does living make us happy?', the answer varies for every single person you ask.
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Old 02-22-2011, 01:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rainbowhawk1993 View Post
Technology is not the primary reason why people are unhappy, its the missuse of it that make it turn aganst us. Consumerisum is the very thing that Technology is making people unhappy. The 1950s was the start of it all because it was the time where wars finally stopped and the U.S. Corporations could finally get the most profits from the citizans. Cars, Highway system, Fast Food, T.V. and advertising. Mixed in with the Conformedy at the time, Consumerisum became apart of every americans' lives and it has servived to this day and is still a big part in society. Consumerisum is the reason why the most distructive force is here: Greed.
Exactly.

The 1950s were a time when the world had just come out of WW2, things were improving again, and it was the first time quality of life started to increase for the majority of people. It's unlikely to come again, but the reason people are less happy is because they are used to the positive changes, while the world has made its own negative changes since then, plus on average, people are more realistic than idealistic.
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Old 02-22-2011, 02:11 AM
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Originally Posted by auroraglacialis View Post
I do however agree to the full extent that consumerism, an invention by capitalist businessmen in the midst of the 20th century is a major source of the unhappiness.
Definitely. People are told they they can have more, the whole 'american dream' thing. That's the problem.

Quote:
These things we are missing then... spirituality
'Spirituality' is fine for those who WANT it, but many people who have sought to enforce it have been among the greatest negative influences on the entire world. Real improvements come from UNDERSTANDING things, not from saying 'it is like this and always will be like this because I say so'. 'Spirituality' without reason or respect for others is responsible for far too many problems, both historically and today. Who are you to say that people should have it forced on them?

Quote:
family, friends, connectedness are then sold back to us in a mimickry - as social networking websites, yoga classes, internet forums (sorry, ToS )
I really don't see the problem with any of those. We KNOW you don't like them - you really don't need to take the opportunity to repeat yourself every single opportunity you get just to make sure every last person who night ever see a post by you knows your position - but leave each to their own. I don't call you irresponsible for wanting to live without anything, neither do I say you shouldn't, but you seem to think it is OK to do the reverse.

Quote:
An example are cellphones - the downsides are social isolation in real life because people are walking by each other staring at their little screens, people call each other instead of meeting, they text each other instead of talking.
Anyone can overuse something. It also means I can talk to a friend who lives 345 minutes away without spending a large amount of time and money when he might well be out or asleep. It also means I can talk to my parents, when otherwise I would not be able to because I do not live with them. If someone decides to EXCLUSIVELY use one for communication, then that is negative - but if someone decides to live in a tree and never speak to anyone else again, that's exactly the same thing, but if someone said that all trees should be removed as a result, you would not like that (and neither would I). The problem is how someone acts, now what they use to do it with. Who's to say that person living in a tree alone isn't happy. It;s not like they are asking you to join them.
You always complain about the internet, but you still use it to put your views across. I'm fine with that, except for when you present them as something that should be forced on others.

Quote:
[Technology] trades emotional, spiritual, inter- and intrapersonal connection for gains on the level of comfort, convenience, intellect and information.
That doens't make those advantages any less valid. Nobody asked you to choose either or the other (but you CAN if you want - that is the point).

Quote:
And that I believe contributes to the unhappiness as well, because we as humans are evolved to be social, emotional, spiritual beings and this is what makes us happy, not information and comforts.
Just because you don't care in that way about other people you know through such means doesn't mean other people don't or shouldn't be allowed to.
Quote:
I am not saying that being comfortable makes us unhappy - but that the way technology often works is that it takes away something in return. It is a deal and the question is what is the price and are we willing to pay it.
I would disagree with that statement - it creates something equally valid and people have the choice. If you want to take choice away from people, you are no better than these supposed people you claim do this.

Quote:
As we are now facing a time in which we cannot ramp up energy production easily and we notice that after all there was a price for that benefits (in terms of global warming, ecological destruction and diminishing our environment) the gains become questionable. We still like them of course, but we become aware of the true price we have to pay for them. And that surely contributes to unhappiness.
We can, quite easily. You always go on about renewable sources, which aren't perfect, but they are a great example both of how it can be decentralised, and also produced without a negative impact. Unhappiness isn't from paying, it's from not being able to make a decision. It's from working too much, and, you may be surprised to know, but sometimes there IS no reason, and people DO feel own. It's from overwork, authoritarian governments, people who claim their ideals are perfect and want to force them on others, and the rest.
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