Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

How much do we fear technology?:

Fear of technological change is nothing new but the benefits outweigh the negatives for most.
By James Evans
Date: September 12 2013
Tags: technology,
Editor Rating:

Fear of technology's impact on our lives is nothing new. Just as many fear social media and email are negatively impacting how we communicate with one another today, many new developments throughout history have been met with fear of the changes they would bring.

The philosopher Plato famously objected to the very notion of written words, for fear that committing thoughts and events to paper would erode our ability to retain such things through memory alone.

Swiss biologist Conrad Gessner decried the printing press, cautioning that it would leave in its wake a "confusing and harmful abundance of books" which would provide people with, put simply, too much information.

And yet, the relentless march of technology, and information available, continues to march on – relentlessly, some might say. People are divided on how technology impacts the way we live our lives. 

On the one hand, according to a recent Harris Poll of 2,500 adults in the United States a majority believe that technology has improved the overall quality of their lives (71%) and encourages people to be more creative (65%). But, at the same time, similar numbers also believe technology is creating a lazy society (76%), has become too distracting (69%) and is corrupting interpersonal communications (68%).

Technology tension

While many believe that technology has improved the overall quality of life, more people also believe it has become too distracting.

While it helps people maintain or even improve their social life, it is also easy to use it during the day and in place of personal interaction. From a workplace perspective, only 34% said that technology had enhanced their productivity and improved their working life, because of a dual pressure of

high expectations of improved productivity because of the benefits of technology, and

the accessibility of technology during the day for non-work purposes (eg. checking Facebook). 

Despite these concerns about technology, clearly Americans still have a hard time unplugging. When faced with a list of technological devices and general life staples and asked how long they could live without each, 28% said they could not live without Internet access – while 20% said they could not live without sex.

Age has nothing to do with it

While younger generations are more likely to own more tech goodies,they are no more affectionate towards technology than older generations. Overall, Gen Y respondents to the survey were consistently more negative about the impact of technology than either Gen X or Baby Boomers, despite the fact they consumer more of it.

Gender gap

The survey also showed a difference between men and women.

  • Men are more likely than women to agree that technology has improved the overall quality of their lives (76% men, 68% women) and that it encourages people to be more creative (69% men, 61% women).
  • Men are also more likely to believe technology has a positive impact on several functional aspects of their lives, such as their safety and security (40% men, 33% women), their work productivity (38% men, 31%, women) and their productivity at home (38% men, 30% women).
  • Women are also more likely than men to agree that technology has become too distracting (73% women, 64% men).
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