What Impacts Does the Digital Revolution Have on Individuals and Society?
Evan Patrick Nicolas
25 June 2021
As a part of contemporary society, it is safe to say that our role in society, values, and behaviors have all been shaped and influenced by the technologies surrounding us. With Siri on our phones, GoogleAssistant on our kitchen countertop, and Alexa in our homes, technology has completely changed, to say the least, how humans interact with each other. In the 21st century, we are so reliant on our technology and gadgets that we tend to stray away from reality. This paper, therefore, will explore the impacts of the digital revolution on our society and individuals in regards to our behaviors, values, and morals, economy, health, and other fundamental aspects of human society in the contemporary world.
To start with, let’s take a deeper look into the somewhat abandonment of a rather more traditional activity that the digital revolution might’ve cost us.
Just as equally important is the impact that technology has on individuals now that we dominate our leisure time with a more device-concentrated activity such as movie streaming. According to Business Insider, reading actually boosts your brain health significantly more than watching, this is due to the fact that reading forces the brain to remain active and bring existing neural pathways to life especially because Business Insider describes the brain as somewhat muscle-like (Brown, 2016). A study was done by Business Insider also reveals that reading books exposes children to 50% more words than watching a television show and sets a great foundation for your child to do well in all facets of formal education. This is extremely important to the future of the global society considering that the character development of today’s generation is constantly being influenced by their gadgets. An article by The Guardian reveals that our children are exhibiting early signs of technology addiction, or more specifically, social media addiction (Yeomans, 2013). For example, consider South Korea, one of the most digital places in the world, is estimated to have 2.55 million people addicted to their gadgets by using their gadgets for more than eight hours a day. While an independent study of the youth in America shows that children are exposed to around seven and a half hours a day to media. The Guardian describes technology addiction of the 21st century to that of drugs and alcohol since the author describes “ (technology) might be contributing to a growing childhood development problem”. Thus, childrens are misusing technology because of their lack of responsibility, lack of digital comprehension, and overuse of technology. Now, we can’t be certain of the effects of this information overload or this growing digital dependency has on the future of the world but perhaps the current generation is going through a technological adaptation process that prepares the youth of the society to be adaptable in today’s connected society.
The video above is a presentation by Chuck Nice on the unintended consequences that come with technological advancements. For example, one of the examples he used is social media and the effects it has on individuals. Among the many uses and convenience that social media provides, let it be entertainment or better communication, social media is also changing the ways of human interaction. Today, we are provided with our devices as a method of “escape” when we encounter uncomfortable social situations. Thus, Nice questions the purpose of our devices whether it makes us more connected, or are we just more connected to our devices? An article by James McWilliams, Saving the Self in the Age of the Selfie, explores the impacts of social media on individuals. In James McWilliams’ piece, he suggests that the internet actually shortens our attention span and that social media removes discomfort in social settings which is actually essential in the development of human character (McWilliams, 2017). The discomfort and stress that we encounter in social settings are actually beneficial for our character formation since it trains individuals to become able in adapting and dealing with social anxiety. Therefore, eliminating the possibility for individuals to learn from real-life settings and human error.
Besides the impacts of social media on character formation, Nice also stresses the importance that we consider the impacts of artificial intelligence in today’s society. Nice suggests that humankind may not be ready for the consequences of misusing artificial intelligence as we have yet to consider artificial emotion (Nice, 2018). Artificial intelligence was first developed to learn from our mistakes and eliminate human error by identifying behaviours and patterns to recognize mistakes. That said, it is vital for the development of artificial intelligence to perfect artificial emotion so that technology is not limited to the set of codes, rather feel and is able to differentiate “right” and “wrong”. The author of The Alignment Problem, Brian Christian, questions the ability of machines to imitate humans’ emotions. This is, therefore, what makes humans special to technology as our morals can never be imitated by machines (Christian, 2014).
Social Media and the internet can also be used as a platform to spread lies and/or false promises. During Obama’s presidential run, Obama’s administration was able to become the first team to truly utilize the potentials of the internet . Three main purposes for the use of internet are information gathering, message broadcasting, and collaborative engagement (Katz, Barris, & Jain, 2013) Through the internet, Obama’s administration team was able to truly understand and interact with its supporters and was able to gain a large number of supporters by acting upon the interest(s) of the public in return to gain their support. Ever since the digitalization of our lives, the internet has been a web of information and communication to spread knowledge and information. However, it is through these platforms that major institutions or people of power use the internet to spread misinformation for one’s advantage.
Although technology may be misused and exploited due to human’s greed, technology has been providing us with opportunities that earlier societies didn’t have. The digital revolution comes with a stronger concept of “science” which gives society a sense of certainty and a better understanding of life; Moreover, in today’s capitalistic society, individuals are drawn into certainty. A scholarly article by S. Asur and B. A. Huberman, Predicting the Future with Social Media, aims to predict the future using social media. In this case, these authors used social media as a method to predict the susceptibility of movies. Their results were better and much more accurate compared to a previous model that is a news-based model for predicting movie revenue which was set to be the benchmark for these concepts (Asur and Huberman, 2010). The results were incredibly accurate mainly due to the fact that social media becomes a hub for publicity and that the publicity and the demand of the movie directly correlates with one another. The success of this research has assured me that similar models can be used on a larger scale to predict the future and calculate the risks ahead. These models can be used for a variety of purposes, whether its politics, business, education, health issues, and many more.
All things considered, the digital age has inevitably replaced some “traditions” with technology; therefore, changing our roles and character in the society. The changes of human character are neither”good” or “bad” but rather comes as a part of our technological adaptation process. With technologies dominating our society from our education, work, to our bedrooms, it is almost impossible for us to “detach” ourselves from our digital environment. Thus, our changes is not the abandonment of our “traditional” ways but is necessary to adapt in today’s rapidly changing world.
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Brown, Brendan. “14 Reasons Why Reading Is Good for Your Health.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 12 Dec. 2016, www.businessinsider.com/14-reasons-why-reading-is-good-for-your-health-2016-12.
Yeomans, M. (2013, June 18). Are children consuming too much digital technology? The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/children-consuming-too-much-digital-technology.
Nice, Chuck, director. A Funny Look at the Unintended Consequences of Technology | Chuck Nice. YouTube, YouTube, 27 Feb. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQigUH0vZSE&t=4s&ab_channel=TED.
McWilliams, James. “Saving the Self in the Age of the Selfie.” The American Scholar, The American Scholar, 8 Sept. 2017, theamericanscholar.org/saving-the-self-in-the-age-of-the-selfie/.
Christian, Brian. “Mind vs. Machine.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 19 Feb. 2014, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/03/mind-vs-machine/308386/.
Katz, J. E., Barris, M., & Jain, A. (2013). The Social Media President: Barack Obama and the Politics of Digital Engagement. Palgrave Macmillan US. : 153–170
S. Asur and B. A. Huberman, “Predicting the Future with Social Media,” 2010 IEEE/WIC/ACM International Conference on Web Intelligence and Intelligent Agent Technology, 2010, pp. 492–499, doi: 10.1109/WI-IAT.2010.63.