The following is an interview conducted via email with Bruce Arrigo, one of the presenters at the Symposium, Digital People: Technology, Identity and Social Change, being held this coming Wednesday March 28.
What got you interested in the issues of technology, identity, and social change, the themes of the symposium at which you will be presenting?
Bruce Arrigo: My interest in technology, identity, and social change is sourced in the way in which we now "depend" on technology to express ourselves, to relate to others, and to make sense of the world in which we live. This dependence increasingly functions as a substitute for more direct, intimate, and real face-to-face relating. So, the medium of technology certainly seems to be changing the way we see ourselves and interact with others. Of course, this change may very well be a way of expressing human adaptation.
What are your thoughts on the theme of technology having the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration in an academic setting as well as for collaboration between the academy and the public at large?
What are your biggest fears about the technological future?
Bruce Arrigo: Over time, excessive reliance on digital technology might mean that we will no longer know how to relate directly and authentically to each other. In fact, it might signify that we simply will no longer care about such "intimate" human relating. If we lack the ability to effectively relate in face-to-face encounters or situations but can do so through digital technology, does this mean that we are adaptively evolving or are we loosing something quite special about our fundamental identities? In other words, are we really changing/evolving for the better?
What are your greatest hopes for the technological future?
Bruce Arrigo: Digital technology may make it possible for everyone to have immediate free access to information in which censorship was eliminated. Depending on the quality of this information, digital technology may help to education and inform everyone in the world. This would be knowledge without borders.
Is technology, broadly speaking, something that humans can control?
Bruce Arrigo: Technology is a tool; humans can control how they incorporate this tool into their lives. In the Heideggarian sense, tools are "ready-to-hand." Thus, each person's ready-to-handedness will vary according to their intention and context. The question, then, is whether this control, this ready-to-handedness, will advance collective or "social" good. Thus far, the evidence is mixed on this.