Oregon Humanities discussion illuminates technology’s impact

SPRINGFIELD — As part of the the Oregon Humanities’ nationwide conversation project, Springfield residents last week participated in a discussion about technology and how it affects humanity.
“It’s a topic that often times we aren’t asked to discuss because of how integrated the idea of technology is in every aspect of our lives,” said moterator Manuel Padilla, who is a teacher and executive director of Portland Meet Portland. “It’s a topic that’s hiding in plain sight — it’s not an ‘issue,’ it’s everything,” he said.
Participants discussed how technology has improved or changed their lives positively and negatively. Positive responses ranged from convenience, fun and education. Social media apps, like Facebook, have made it easier to connect with old friends. Negatives included living in a bubble and being distracted; for people working in creative fields the access “made their creative brain suffer.”
Padilla said that, while there is access to information of theoretical importance, often times there isn’t anything that can be done about it, which elicits a feeling of responsibility and obligation to pay attention.
“It’s daunting to discuss (technology) because of how much it implicates everything we do in our lives, in that sense that it’s like Voldemort: The thing that cannot be named,” he explained. “There is a perception that there isn’t anything we can do, that we are at the mercy of it.”
The group found technology’s impact to have some adverse effects because humans adapt so quickly. Technology has an impact on memory as well as education, because the world is at a student’s fingertips and instead they need to learn the tools to think critically.
One of the handouts given in the group brought in the ethics of how to respond to photographs of suffering and how photographic technology impacts how humans engage with the world.
“It’s important because it’s something that can develop a sense of intimacy between us as people that is also something we all share,” Padilla said about the discussion. “It’s not an issue that divides us because we’re all wrapped up in it.”
Padilla also brought up that humans don’t think of themselves as technology, but at the end of the day technology is just another extension of humanity, and humans are what give technology life — the positives and the negatives.
The conversation ended with one final question from Padilla to reflect on: Is there something that humans have the ability to do with technology that humanity will decide is off limits?
“You are being asked to consider things on a philosophical level and that’s a unique aspect of this conversation,” Padilla said. “It makes it both exciting and important.”



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