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  • Good afternoon.

  • When I first got to MIT in 1978 Michael Dertouzos,

  • who's the head of the laboratory for computer science held a meeting.

  • There was a several day retreat in Endicott House Conference center.

  • In which he assembled the greatest minds

  • in computer science really at the time

  • to figure out the question of what people

  • might want to do with what was then called

  • home computers.

  • The word personal computers really hadn't

  • come into the lexicon yet.

  • Now these were the first computers that

  • you didn't have to build.

  • These were the first computers that you

  • could actually buy.

  • And these great computer scientists got together

  • and I was invited to the meeting

  • because I had begun my studies of computers and people.

  • They got together and they kind of gave it their best shot.

  • Somebody suggested the children might wanna learn to program,

  • listen to respectfully, maybe.

  • Somebody suggested that we would want to put our

  • address books on computers and people laughed,

  • and said well actually paper and pencil, little books paper was perfect for that

  • because most people didn't have a data base,

  • they had a couple of names and addresses so that didn't make a lot of sense.

  • Some people suggested well a calendar and actually people said well no,

  • I don't like using the computer for my calendar.

  • I really find the little Filofax is much better.

  • You can flip through it's much more practical.

  • I tell this story because I think it's very important to know,

  • to remember that really not that long ago,

  • we were trying to figure out how we would keep computers busy.

  • And you know, now we know that once we networked with each other.

  • Once computers were our portal to being with each other,

  • we really don't have to worry about keeping computers busy.

  • They keep us busy.

  • It's kind of as though we are their killer app.

  • So how does that work?

  • We're on our email, our games, our virtual worlds.

  • We text each other at family dinners, while we jog, while we drive,

  • we take our lives into our hands to do that

  • even with our kids in the back seat of the car.

  • We text each other at funerals,

  • we go to the park and we push swings with one hand

  • and we scroll through our messages with each other.

  • Lot of my research is observing families and you know, this is what I see.

  • The children who I interview say that their parents read them Harry Potter again.

  • With their right hand reading the book and the left hand scrolling through

  • the messages on the Blackberry.

  • Children describe that moment at school pickup.

  • They'll never tell you that they care but they describe that moment

  • where they come out of school you know looking for that moment of eye contact

  • and instead of that moment of eye contact with the parent

  • who after all had shown up at school pickup

  • that parent is looking at the iPhone looking at the smartphone and is reading mail.

  • So from the moment this generation of children met technology,

  • it was a competition and now they've grown up and today's teenagers,

  • this generation of children who've grown up with technology being the competition,

  • they now have their turn to live in a culture of distraction.

  • And what do they tell me?

  • They tell me they sleep with their cell phones.

  • They begin by saying, well I use it as an alarm clock,

  • and then they come clean and they say well actually

  • it's not just because I use it as an alarm clock.

  • They want to sleep with it just in case they get a message or they want to communicate

  • and then they say even when their phones are put away --

  • let's say relegated to their school locker --

  • they know when they have a message or a call,

  • they feel that, they can tell at long distance that they have a message or a call

  • they say they can just sense it.

  • Indeed adults as well as teens report that they feel their phones vibrating.

  • Even when they are not.

  • This is a well known phenomenon, it's called the phantom ring.

  • It's been reported all over.

  • When you take our phones away from us,

  • we become anxious, we become impossible, really.

  • Modern technology has become like a phantom limb, it is so much a part of us.

  • So what is the arc of the story that I want to tell?

  • Only fifteen years ago looking at the early internet,

  • I felt an incredible sense of optimism.

  • I saw a place for identity experimentation

  • I called it an identity workshop,

  • for trying out aspects of self that were hard to experiment with in the physical real

  • and all of this happens and all of this is still wondrous.

  • But what I didn't see coming, and I like to tell my students

  • call me not prescient.

  • What I didn't see coming and what we have now is that

  • mobile connectivity, that world of devices always on and always on us,

  • would mean that we would be able basically to bail out of the physical real at anytime,

  • to go to all of the other places and spaces that we have available to us

  • and that we would want to.

  • One man I interviewed, who plays with his kids in the park

  • while he talks to his virtual mistress on iPhone, calls it the life mix.

  • So I guess you could say that what I'm talking about

  • are the perils of going from multitasking

  • to multi-lifing, the perils of the life mix.

  • Technology proposes itself as the architect of our intimacies.

  • And these days there is no coyness about its aspiration

  • to substitute life on the screen for the other kind.

  • Technology is seductive when its affordences meet our human vulnerabilities.

  • And it turns out we are very vulnerable indeed.

  • We are lonely but fearful of intimacy.

  • Connectivity offers for many of us,

  • the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.

  • We can't get enough of each other -- if we can have each other at a distance

  • in amounts that we can control.

  • Think of Goldilocks, not too close, not too far, just right.

  • Connection made to measure, that's the new promise.

  • The ability to hide from each other even as we are continually connected to each other.

  • To put it too simply, we would rather text than talk.

  • Online connections bring so many bounties.

  • But our lives of continual connection also leave us vulnerable.

  • Often we are too busy communicating to think.

  • Too busy communicating to create,

  • too busy communicating to really connect

  • with the people we're with in the ways that would really count.

  • In continual contact, we're alone together.

  • To paraphrase Thoreau, where do we live and what do we live for

  • in our new tethered lives

  • or in other words, what do we have, now that we have what we say we want,

  • now that we have what technology makes easy?

  • In corporations, among circles of teenage and adult friends,

  • within academic departments, people readily admit that they would rather text

  • or send an email than talk face to face.

  • Some who say I live my life on my blackberry,

  • are forthright about avoiding real-time commitment of a phone call.

  • When you text, one young man says, you have more time to think about what you're writing

  • on the telephone too much might show.

  • Here we use technology to dial down human contact and there's that Goldilocks thing.

  • To titrate it's nature and extent.

  • People are comforted by being in touch with a lot of people, whom they also keep at bay.

  • And we confront a paradox.

  • We insist that our world is increasingly complex

  • yet we've created a communication's culture

  • that has decreased the time available for us to sit and think,

  • uninterrupted we've ramp up the volume and velocity of communication

  • but we start to expect fast answers.

  • And in order to get them we ask each other simpler questions,

  • we start to dumb down our communication,

  • even on the most important matters.

  • Shakespeare might have said,

  • we are consumed with that which we are nourished by.

  • This flood of connection affects the development of the self in many ways,

  • here I am just going to mention one of them.

  • Let's call it, I share therefore I am.

  • For so many I have studied, things go from I have a feeling, I want to make a call,

  • to I want to have a feeling, I need to send a text.

  • In other words the validation of a feeling becomes part of establishing it.

  • More than this, what is not being cultivated is the ability to be alone.

  • To gather oneself, there is a great psychological truth.

  • If we don't teach our children to be alone, they will only know how to be lonely.

  • For adult and child having gotten into the habit of constant connection,

  • we risk losing our capacity for the kind of solitude that energizes and that restores.

  • So let me share some final thoughts.

  • First about the metaphor of addiction, which we're too apt to use.

  • And second, about the moment we're at and the promise it offers.

  • First, addiction.

  • People are compelled by that little red light on the blackberry

  • that tells them a message is waiting.

  • I ask them why,

  • and they talk about their mobile device as the place for hope in their life.

  • The place where something new will come to them.

  • The place where loneliness can be defeated.

  • They say things like, the phone is where the sweetness is.

  • We're vulnerable to the constant feelings of connection that technology offers.

  • We should focus on this vulnerability

  • because we can work on getting less vulnerable.

  • However apt, we can ill afford the metaphor of addiction.

  • Because if you're addicted you have only one solution,

  • you have to get rid of that substance.

  • And we know that we are not going to get rid of the internet,

  • we are not going to get rid of social networking.

  • We will not go cold turkey or forbid cellphones to our children.

  • These technologies are our current partners in the human adventure.

  • The notion of addiction with this one solution that we know we won't take,

  • makes us feel hopeless and passive.

  • We sense something amiss and we're at a moment of opportunity.

  • Every technology provides an opportunity to ask,

  • does it serve our human purposes?

  • A question that causes us to reconsider what these purposes are.

  • Just because we grew up with the internet,

  • we assume that the internet is all grown up.

  • We tend to see what we have now as the technology in its maturity.

  • That the way we live now with the internet

  • is how we're going to live with it in the future.

  • And that's not true.

  • With the internet, it is very early days.

  • It is time to make the corrections and one hopeful place

  • is to restart some conversations we allowed to get derailed.

  • To take as only one example,

  • we close down conversations and much to our detriment.

  • By getting into performance mode on the network

  • in both our personal and our professional lives.

  • Personally there's been a tendency to use social networking to perform an ideal self.

  • Many people tell me they don't like to show flaws and vulnerabilities

  • or share bad news online with friends.

  • They say things like, it just doesn't seem like the place to talk about problems.

  • Not even, as one woman put it, the death of my dog.

  • So certainly not about more serious problems.

  • So the more time we spend online,

  • the more we keep a lot of things to ourselves.

  • Even as we think we're updating our status and updating our status,

  • and sharing ourselves with the world.

  • But very often we're sharing what makes us look good.

  • We're sharing what's easy to share.

  • Professionally, we also perform in our emails and memos at work.

  • Business people, lawyers, consultants tell me.

  • That in their work environments, they don't want to leave an electronic trace,

  • of asking for help or admitting failures and frustrations.

  • So we make it harder to fix problems,

  • we make it harder to be mentored.

  • So we cut off conversations in our friendships,

  • and we cut off conversations in our professional life

  • that would improve our performance on the job.

  • The path ahead is challenging but clear for both institutions and individuals,

  • for both love and money,

  • the next task for all of us is to restart those necessary conversations.

  • Instead of casual Fridays, we should all be asking for conversational Thursdays.

  • And that won't be a bad thing at all.

  • Reclaiming conversation, that's the next frontier.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Good afternoon.

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B1 technology busy addiction people connection vulnerable

【TEDx】TEDxUIUC - Sherry Turkle - Alone Together

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    阿多賓 posted on 2014/02/17
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