Sherry Turkle — Alive Enough? Reflecting on Our Technology
November 15, 2012

Each of us, in our everyday interactions, chooses between letting technology shape us and shaping it towards human purposes, even towards honoring what we hold dear. Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, is full of usable ideas — from how to declare email bankruptcy to teaching our children the rewards of solitude.


83 reflections
read/add yours


Shortened URL

Selected Readings

"The Robotic Moment"

Sherry Turkle's fascinating story from Alone Together of her daughter's idea of authenticity and idea of being "alive enough" at a Darwin exhibit.

Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

As the world shrinks and technology empowers us, Jennifer Cobb says, we must not forget slavery can take many forms, including abdicating our responsibility of tikkun olam. What do you think of her assessment?


Sometimes reticence becomes a full embrace when circumstances change, especially with your first grandchild.


Will the transcendent possibilities of "the singularity" invade our spiritual domains too?

For 20 years Sherry Turkle has asked unusual questions about the human side of technology. She wants to know how our relationship with devices affects our psychology, and why it is that “we no longer care if we are among life.”


Being mindful may mean you just can't shoot that next photo or journal that gorgeous sunset. A 3-minute TEDtalk.

The Internet Wishlist creates a space for people to share the holes and needs in their complex lives where apps and websites could do them some good.

The FOMO factor? Turned into lil' performers? A septuagenarian who is "on his way"?

Reporting back from this year's World Science Festival: how artificial intelligence will help us deal with the unsolvable and yes even the certain.

Wisdom from Google's senior management that reminds us who drives technology.

With disruption comes reinvention, this video from the World Science Festival shows us what's in store for us tech users.

Our robotic moment? Perhaps we need to be asking better questions of ourselves rather than the more simplistic ones when it comes to thinking about our relationship with technology.

November is Native American Heritage Month. We talk with an Ojibwe language preservationist on how technology can save a key part of Native American culture.

About the Image

The Adkins family poses for a portrait session.

Your Comments

Filtered HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><span><div><img><!-->
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Embed content by wrapping a supported URL in [embed] … [/embed].

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.


I applaud the choice of topic and Sherry Turkle's efforts to bring consciousness to how we interface with emerging technology. This is an important topic to me personally and professionally.

(1) I serve on the Board of Directors at the Coulds in Water Zen Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. At a recent retreat, our lunchtime conversation became quite energetic as the phenomenon of technology (eg, social networking, smart phones, texting, etc) was broached. Generally, the younger board members had more familiarity with and experience using contemporary technology. However, the need for individuals, families, and society to *consciously* interface with these technologies, to keep them tools and not tyrants in our lives, was unanimous.

We have no technology-specific programs yet, but I, for one, foresee this in our sangha's future.

(2) I recently had a rich exchange with a marketing professional/social media-guru friend of mine who maintains a blog for work. He posted a summary of a panel discussion, "The future of collective intelligence," he attended at last month's South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas.

I had such a strong reaction to the panel's ideas and choice of words that I responded to my friend, largely out of curiosity for his opinions on my "unconventional" views. To my pleasant surprise, he not only graciously received my perspective on the pitfalls of mindless technology, but also requested to share it with others that follow his blog.
Here is his original post:
Here is my response:

I think this exchange between my friend and me underscores the importance and *possibility* of bringing consciousness to the conversations that shape the media, marketing, and mores of our culture.

(3) I have been a public health professional for more than 15 years, working on chronic and infectious disease epidemiology and policy at the state, national, and international levels. For more than 10 years, I have held in awareness a growing uneasiness below the surface of my professional life. Last year, after intentionally cultivating a "container" (months of meditation, reading, yoga, and retreats) to allow this uneasiness to gestate, an idea arose within me like a promise that, as the poet David Whyte puts it, "[would] kill me to break."

No longer satisfied with pursuing the cultural norm of "health" as merely a disease-free status, I am professionally embracing the fuller meaning of the word "health," which comes from "heal" or "whole." I am now dedicating myself to the epidemic of "emptiness" in this country, which is constantly covered over by our growing addiction to smart phones, among other things. We increase our own suffering and that of the world when we cover up or run away from the present moment of our lives.

Consciously addressing emerging technology requires conscious indivduals.

That is why the company I am starting is dedicated to providing opportunities for people to discover, develop, and deepen their connection to life - to their "one wild and precious life" (poet, Mary Oliver).

Recently I've been catching myself sending e-mails to my wife while she's sitting in the same room a mere arm's length away at another computer. She has expressed valid complaints to this situation... "Just TALK to me!" is her plea. This awareness has revealed my own hypocrisy when I rail at others who concentrate on sending text messages while ignoring the person with whom they're conversing, or having lunch with.

Also, I have all-too-often found myself spending HOURS on writing and answering e-mails, to the point where I begin to rob myself of needed sleep, exercise, nutrition, or relating meaningfully face-to-face with those I love. My struggles toward a solution include: (1) Setting a specific time limit on technology, and when the time is up, to STOP using it. (2) Never to allow technology to intrude on meals, or on face to face conversation. (3) Form accountability to others on how I use technology, so it can remain meaningful, pure, spiritually nourishing, and can contribute to solving the ills of this world, rather than adding to it.

Finland, the land of my ancestors, has more computers, cell phones, and modern communications technology per capita than anywhere else on the planet. I have a growing conviction that it is the way we Finns deal with our fear of face-to-face communication, and by extension, a certain fear of intimacy. I have come a long way in that regard, but I have a considerable distance yet to go, as a 72 year old who is still "on the way."

The increasing isolation of music technology, iPods, headphones and the like is the focus of on-going conversations with my teenage grandsons.

One of the most attractive aspects of music experience to me has always been its communal aspect. Music to me means sharing a concert surrounded by an appreciative audience, the careful selection of records/CDs to set the mood for a gathering of family and friends, or the happy feeling as we gather at the piano enjoying the old tunes that have such happy memories! Now it seems that everyone has headphones, listening to music in a solitary experience that deliberately tunes out others. Headphones and earpieces in place, I see the Walking Oblivious, in a self-centered cocoon of chosen sound that tunes out any interaction from the outside world, completely disconnected from each other. In the car, on the street, at the bank, there is no way to get their attention. Not heard and not wanted, I'm rebuffed from uttering a friendly 'hello', or making any small signs of friendly recognition, all the good manners and politeness that society used to value.

"Alive Enough?" Reflecting on Our Technology: Tell us and other listeners if you've created strategies to lead an examined digital life:

We just haven't bought into it. Our family doesn't have an iphone, laptop, blackberry or e-reader. While all would be fun, that is the key word "fun", they aren't necessities in the life we are choosing to lead. We have a PC with high speed internet and cable TV and the adults have cell phones (without the media package) and that is quite enough. I don't feel like I'm "missing out" on anything.

I'm in the television business and sometimes I feel overwhelmed by how quickly things change in my profession. Its VERY hard to tune out because I may miss something that may cost me an opportunity. I still tune out on Sundays to decompress because if I didn't I'd be not a good person to be around.

When I heard Sherry's words about not knowing how to be alone leaving us only with loneliness, I felt they were quite precious. Immediately, I turned to my Skype window and inserted them into my small message box at the top. I keep this box filled with thoughts that move me. I then turned to an online image file to find an accompanying picture. The scores of visual images that came forward were virtually all people -- mostly young -- in the throes of loneliness, being alone being equated with despair. I found one or two images only which communicated that any joy or peace could be found with oneself.

My thoughts turned to my own challenges with coming home to myself in this country. Almost five years in Thailand, where people's politeness with one another allows a great deal of personal privacy, allowed me to find a certain inner space which fractured upon returning to America. I find that sitting through the amount of time that it takes simply for the nervous system to quiet...daunting. The efforts of the bulk of the media -- not to mention that our politicians have no problem driving the collective psyche to the brink about whether there will be a working government -- seem to be intent on supporting fear and hypervigilance. It is no wonder that young people desperately need to be "in-touch" with as many of their friends as possible, simultaneously when possible. There is a perceived safety net there. How do we show them that the ultimate safety, support and guidance is found within? As a transpersonal psychologist, I find this to be a central question for the young and not so young as well. The answer is not something we can so much tell to others as one we must model for others.

I deeply appreciate your work, Krista, and that of all of your team. On Being is a true light source.

My reflections on the use of email:

1. I am hard of hearing and so find phoning difficult. Email, with its quick response time for exchange of ideas, has made communication easier with my grown children.

2. I belong to a book discussion group. Sharing ideas or questions with everyone in the group in between meetings is so easy with email: one click and every individual can be contacted.

3. Phoning is so disruptive--it may conflict with dinner hour or nap/sleep time. Email can be read and responded to at the individual's discretion.

(I did not hear the broadcast, but am responding to Krista Tippett's email news letter.)

I really appreciate the conversation that Sherry Turkle raises. I recently visited Hawaii for the first time and was enchanted with how much life there was on the Big Island. We went snorkeling in an area where hundreds of dolphins were living and were able to swim alongside them. Later that night, we had our first resort experience staying at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, where they have captive dolphins in a small lagoon. Patrons can pay money to touch the dolphins in the pool, and feel that they've had a glimpse of the exotic wildlife of Hawaii, without having to leave the comfort of the resort. When I reflect on the experience of Sherry Turkle's daughter, suggesting that the turtle in the museum "may as well be a robot", I can see how she would feel that way. What satisfaction can come from watching animals in cages and museums, or dolphins and whales trapped in small pools? If her daughter went snorkeling and saw sea turtles in the coral reef, I doubt she would compare them to robots. She would probably feel even more alive herself. Perhaps we should replace all captive animals with robots, and allow life to flourish in its chosen environment, where we can visit it after the robot museum peaks our interest.

I'm struck by and disappointed in the vast number of overstatements and generalizations made by both the host and guest on this program. Technology isn't all bad; people who use it are just as if not more likely to interact in person with others as a result of exchanges on Twitter or Facebook. It's telling that both women say they ignored emails (that's just rude and unbusinesslike, isn't it?) and Krista is afraid of Facebook. There's no need to slam all technology, is there? I wish this had had more of the show's usual perspective and balance. Really, really disappointed.

And, by the way, your comments policy needs some work. Asking for one's age to "verify legal requirements" doesn't really tell me why you must capture this. Along with one's name, a birthdate can be used to deeply violate your users' privacy. Please try rethinking this.

Funny, as I type this message, my dog is trying to push my hand away from the keyboard with his nose as I'm late for his morning walk.

I loved listening to this show. I was dismayed to hear that young people might feel that a robot could be "live enough." I'm also relieved to hear that my anxiety with technology is shared by others. I love the idea of just checking email 3 times a day and will give that a try.

One of the ways that I try to mix my career in digital design, the need to stay current in social media, and my own reflective nature is via photography. I'll spend hours hiking or going on a day trip with just my camera and myself. All the while, thinking. Then, I upload these pics to my Flickr account and strike up conversations with my social media pals...or not. Some images only inspire me. It's a great way for me to find myself in the digital soup.

Your interview touched such a chord with me. I am a children's librarian working in a very busy public library that serves an affluent suburban area in Northern Virginia. One of the mandates of a children's librarian is to encourage the development of early literacy in toddlers and preschoolers. The most important way we do this is through library storytimes where we read beautiful and compelling picture books, sing songs, do fingerplays, play rhythm instruments, dance with scarves, etc. In the ten years I have been doing this I have seen a dramatic change in the behavior of parents. They still bring their little ones to storytime in huge numbers but instead of interacting with their children and helping them do all the activities, they now sit there with their smart phones. I look out over the sea of faces and see adults texting, checking email, playing solitaire, etc. The other thing I see, which I find greatly ironic, is the obsession with taking photos of their kids with their smart phones. So, they can't actually interact with the child yet they feel the need the record the moment and post the photo on their facebook page or blog. The end result is that the kids are not the same---they aren't getting the most out of their library experience and they've turned into little performers in front of the camera to get their parents attention. The other day at work I suddenly realized that the noise level in the children's area had become a cacophony of noise. There was a kid at the coloring table throwing crayons against the wall. There was another toddler at the computer louding and destructively banging the mouse. There was another child pulling books by the handfuls out of the shelf and throwing them on the floor. I thought, where are the parents? Then I realized that each of these kids had a parent right there but EVERY SINGLE ONE had their face buried in their phone and were completely unaware of what their kids was doing. It's a sad situation that I feel will have lasting consequences for this generation of children.

"The Internet is not yet a mature technology." That's so obvious, when you stop to think about it, but we rarely stop to think about it. We embrace wholeheartedly, or rail against (depending on our personal reaction), the latest tech without stopping to think that it doesn't end here, that we're still in transition. It will shape us -- technological change always does -- but we can also shape it by raising important questions, as Prof. Turkle does.

I am one of the very few human beings without a cell phone. Like a creature from another planet, I have observed this wireless phenomenon from the outside. How much has changed in the last eleven years since I started watching! I am a social person, but I feel no need to be always available, or to have a phone at the ready at all times. Yet, I see my friends and family unable to imagine being without their phone. I suspect I would feel the same way pretty soon if I got one. I'm here to tell you it is possible to exist without one (maybe a little difficult when you can't find a public phone and you need one.)

My reasons for not joining the crowd are not luddite. Eleven years ago I became an accidental advocate when a telecom wanted to put cell phone antennas on our building. Innocently I began to search for information on the safety. What I uncovered was startling, and has continued to be only more startling. There are many hundreds of studies indicating that the radiation from these phones, and their cell tower base stations, is biologically active. Multiple studies showing DNA breakage, cellular stress, opening of the blood-brain barrier, impacts on immunity, changes in brainwaves and heart rhythms, to name a few. Effects have been seen on humans, animals and plants. People who think that the industry's claim that there is no evidence of concern is true, just haven't looked into the real situation. For me, there is concern about the long-term effects, but just as important, I refuse to buy the products of an industry that is so blatantly obfuscating the truth. I've done my homework on this, attending international meetings with and without the industry, reading studies as they are published, and talking with researchers.

From my vantage point, what I am seeing around me is the flowering of a very effective, and in many ways unethical, PR campaign that is leading to the near addictive attachment to this technology, and the ever-expansion of it. Never having had safety testing at the outset, it doesn't have healthy roots. The mix of the psychological with the biological makes for an uncertain pathway to the maturity Ms. Terkle hopes for.

Now, when it comes to computers, I am guilty as charged. I do stick to the wired variety whenever possible. In my "spare" time, I'm on the internet a lot--too much in my opinion. Although I try to limit my emails by avoiding most lists, it is the way I have come to keep in touch. I have always been a collector of art cards to send, and my box of cards has hardly been tapped since I started with email many years ago. I find myself doing a lot of stream of consciousness surfing---one link takes me to another and another and...I always feel like I have learned something new. However, I haven't quite figured out whether any of it is of long-lasting value, or if it is mostly mind candy.

What is distressing is the amount of time--life time--that gets poured into the abyss of the internet. It's what you're not doing that is the problem. One of the things that becomes harder to do is to integrate your life. The computer can deliver a lot of information, but only you can put it into some usable context. There is a sneaking sense of unity that comes from just sitting in one place, looking at one screen, and sequentially going from one task or link to another. It is a false sense, however. The rest of your life can be completely dishevelled, but you can go to the computer to get the illusion of anchoring. I think that's part of the dependency for many people.
(Image borrowed from the cover of JH Weekly)

It seems to me that our current culture is one of instant gratification. Evidence of this can be seen when we try to teach our children to wait for their reward. Rather than accepting that what they want will eventually come, in all its glory, we enter into a negotiation for lesser, but more immediate, rewards. "You can have dessert after dinner." "Can I have a cookie now?" "Just a small piece of candy?" I feel this is what we are also doing to our relationships. We have substituted authentic, deep, emotional connections for immediate, instantly gratifying, twitterships. In this age where contact through technology has become ubiquitous, we settle for what "feels" like connection because we can have it now. We have learned how to microwave our relationships, but I fear that in the end we are missing the value and satisfaction of a slow-cooked connection. As Sherry's daughter implied, we prefer what looks real and has the archetypal characteristics of the real thing, over the apparent "lackluster" of the the "live" thing itself.

This program is a very nice complement to the recent PBS documentary about 21st Century Learners.

Never respond immediately to a critical or otherwise provoactive email. Read it. Think about it. Let it digest within yourself for a time. I find if it is going to require an equally tough-minded reply, it is best to either wait overnight before responding. Or write a response and wait overnight before deciding to send it. So, I have worked hard to slow down my response time, and not have such a trigger-happy finger on the send button.

As a high school college counselor, I asked the question on a written student profile, "What was the most memorable/influential part of your growing up years?" The dominant answer was, "The time we spent together at dinner as a family."

Kudos to Sherry for giving prominence to the impact of technology on our living souls.

I've been teaching computer art at a public high school for 15 years. I've always taught the way most teachers do: stading up in front of groups of students and leading a discussion, demonstrating, or lecturing. Two years ago I started recoding short videos of me teaching almost all the content for one of my classes. I now have students interact with these videos at their computers to learn about 80% of the curriculum. They like this method, because they can control the pace and order of what they learn. I never realized what a tyranny it was making an entire class of students learn the same thing at the same pace. But here's where it gets really interesting from a human interaction point of view. The other 20% of the students' time is spent giving and receiving peer feedback and collaborating on projects. But even more transformative is that I now spend 100% of my instructional time moving among the students and having conversations with them about their work. Most of those conversations are structured--they are required to get my feedback at regular intervals. But many are also spontaneous. The side effect I hadn't realized is that I'm actually getting to know my students more than I ever had before. They're asking me questions face-to-face that they never would have asked in front of a whole class. I'm also becoming more familiar with their classwork, and sometimes their thoughts and ideas about the world. It's transformed my view about how technology might actually enable me to practice the art of teaching in a more personal way. Educational theorists have shown us for a long time that real learning--which hapens when a student links a new idea into their exising network of existing ideas in order to understand the world a little more--often happens during a one-on-one conversation. In my classroom I'm beginning to wonder if technology might actually help create a learning environment where those kinds of teacher-student interactions might be more possible.

Your comments were refreshing in the context of the other comments of this podcast: Tibbet/Turkle. Not that most of the comments posted didn't have very valid, meaningful content. What I find refreshing in your comments, is how very useful internet teaching can be in, e.g., the classroom. I don't believe either Tibbet or Turkle would find issue with what you say. It's just that the examples you give add vitally to the overall conversation. BTW, your comments predate the very informative issue of TIME Magazine, a few months ago. The cover story dealt with new ways of teaching effectively at the college level. I believe you'll find encouraging articles that fit right in with your own experience.

I am a mother of two children in their mid to late 20's and I am glad they were grown before this age of smartphones. The availability of information is very seductive and it is easy to fill time by checking email or status updates or Twitter feeds. I have a teaching endorsement in educational technology and love the innovation of it all but am aware of the downfalls as well.

When my children were younger and at home, I did limit the use of technology to create our own sacred spaces. For me, dinner together each night was one of those spaces and another was driving in the car. I loved driving in the car with the kids because they were captive audiences - it was a time we could talk without sitting face to face and they could say things to me about so many topics. I outlawed the then-popular Walkman's in the car unless we were driving a long distance. I wanted the earphones out so we could hear each other. I don't regret it. The kids now mention how much they liked eating together every night.

I, too, feel sadness when I see parents overfocusing on smartphones at restaurants or waiting in line somewhere and children pulling on their pantlegs, asking for attention. It is important that we support the voices of children trying to engage their parents and remind each other what is important in life.

As computer teacher I think about how technology effects us and how it affects the youth who are growing up immersed in it. I like what Sherry says about us needing to shut off technology to get back in touch with each other and ourselves.

as i listened to sherry's unedited comments i am reminded of the "fomo" factor, the "fear of missing out," and how social media fills that gap for some.

jenna wortham's fomo experience is worth knowing about, though it made my skin sizzle. this afternoon i stopped to concentrate on what jenna was "owning." her described use of social media is for me totally disorienting; yet, to close my ears to what is attractive to others is to remain ignorant of their rewarding experiences, so i forced myself to listen to the segment's conclusion; then, when i went back to obtain the show description so i could describe it for you, i was further surprised that the moderator introduced the segment as "the dark side of social networking; i doubt that jenna would characterize her preferences as a "dark side" for her!
you can find the podcast on itunes, new york times weekend business, apr 8, edition, and fast forward to 13 mins 20 secs; the segment last about 6 mins; if you click on the link below it will take you to the same podcast, but depending upon your download program may not show up with minute/seconds visible on your slide bar. if that's the case, move the bar over about 1 1/2 inches; if you're listening to mortgage talk you're not there yet; if you hearing about "fomo" then you're in the segment and you can slide back to where it begins.

When Prof. Turkle's daughter said that a robot could replace the sleeping turtle, I wondered if she realized that while SHE is sleeping, a robot (or even a photo) could do the same thing. If we define value according to what we're receiving right now, we reduce all things or people to almost nothing; if we define value according to interactions in the big picture, where all are connected, there's no substitute for life and creative responses.

This show being an examination of--among other things--religion and spirituality, I am amazed that the subject of the Jewish Sabbath did not come up once in Ms. Tippett's conversation with Dr. Turkle. To those who observe it in the traditional fashion, the Jewish Sabbath represents nearly 15% of a lifetime spent just being with one's self and/or with one's family and friends. Absent are the intrusions of an overloaded and--dare I say--polluted information landscape; present are our most intimate companions, thoughts, and senses (and I would be remiss to neglect mentioning good food and song).

Dr. Turkle spoke of the phenomenon of the transmission of memories through heirlooms being lost as future generations inherit digital files rather than printed photographs. On a national level, Jews will never lose their tactile heirloom, the ancient scroll with which they interact on each and every Sabbath. On an individual level the descendants of the Sabbath observant will inherit the physical carriers of their family's history: words and images that--due to the sanctity of the Sabbath--may not be reduced to sequences of 1's and 0's.

One of two reflections. This one, on solitude and sacred spaces, is a confession or an apology, depending on how you take it.

I have, for some 16 years now, walked my dog in the green belt around our San Antonio home. In character it resembles the mud flats and sand dunes of Prof. Turkle's Cape Cod. For the past few years, first my iPod and now my iPhone have joined us on our walk. "Why?" Sherry (may I call you Sherry? I'm a fan.) might ask? "Why cut yourself off from the experience of being alone in nature?"

Perhaps the answer lies in what I do with my iPhone. After all, it is not solitude itself that matters but what we fill it with (insert crude joke about ending sentences with prepositions). My iPhone brings two things to my walk. First, I use it to call my 96 year-old father in Hawaii. It is our time to be with each other across those many miles. Second, I listen to the weekly podcast from

But talking to Dad and listening to you, Krista, are not all that I do on these walks. Often, I hear something on your podcast that sends my monkey mind off along paths that I find quite productive. This reflection is one of them. So I find myself often pressing the little button that rewinds the podcast for 30 seconds.

And, because I am more, much more than my consciousness, the totality of my being is in and is exquisitely sensitive to my presence in the greenbelt. How I talk to my father or listen to you would not be the same were I not walking in the greenbelt. Indeed, because it is movement and not stillness that focusses my consciousness, the very act of walking allows me to listen to you with a depth that I could not reach if I were sitting at my desk or on my couch.

If you can suggest a finer place than my greenbelt to talk to my father or listen to your podcasts, I would like to hear of it.

Moving on to sacred spaces, and, in particular, to the dinner table. I'd be interested in your reaction to this experience (which I've hd more than once, by the way). Sitting at a restaurant, I see two women at a nearby table. Each of them is chatting away on her mobile phone. I think to myself, "Why aren't they being with each other?"

So, I begin to eavesdrop. And, in doing so, I come to understand that the two women at the restaurant and the two on the other end of their link are engaged in a four-way conversation. There are, in effect, four people at their table: who physically present and two present by virtue of technology. What makes a place sacred is not what is physically there, but rather what goes on there.

Reflection two of two concerns Sherry's observation that universities (a) once made a move to provide wifi in their lecture halls, (b) found that students used the facility to shop, and (c) are now rethinking (a).

I myself am in the educational technology field (note the disclaimer). Her remarks reminded me of the many conversations that I've had with students and teachers about this issue. These conversations usually fall into one of three categories.

1. "Technology is a distraction in the classroom. We need to keep it out so that students can concentrate on the teacher." (Voiced most often by professors and their students.)

2. "Technology is part of the furniture. We've grown up with it and have made it part of our lives. Leaving it behind as we enter the classroom is like asking us to check our brains at the door." (Voiced most often by high-school students)

3. "Technology is the most exciting thing to come to education in many a decade. Give me the right tools, and I will transform the classroom." (Voiced most often by K-12 teachers.)

So, what occurred to me is that perhaps instead of rethinking the move to put wifi in the lecture hall, what needs rethinking is the lecture hall itself.

I have long been fascinated, and amused, by the growing connection by humans to electronic devices. I am particularly interested in how their immediacy/urgency takes them out of the present moment and has them do things like swerve all over the road, interrupt conversations, bump into things, ignore others and more. I am also more and more intrigued by our apparent addiction to these devices. I will never forget Thanksgiving evening when I was visiting with friends for dessert and one of their daughters felt compelled to disengage from the company and conversation in order to take pictures of the desserts with her smartphone and post them on Facebook and Twitter. Apparently intimate gatherings were second fiddle to sharing the moment with her thousands of adoring fans anxiously awaiting an update on her Thanksgiving dessert in the social media world. I have written a few short pieces on my observations below, if anyone is interested.

I've downloaded, listened to, and am sharing the unedited interview with friends. Among the (para)phrases that have stuck in my head are "Facebook is not your mother. It's a business" and the notion that the technology of the present is just a point on a continuum of development and that we need to make conscious choices about how we let it help or interfere with our lives.

I want to start the first chain of coffee shops called "The Disconnected Cafe." Not because I think technology is bad but it is so hard to be disciplined about shutting it off. In my fantasy, when you walked into the cafe you would no longer be able to connect via your phone or computer. If someone needed to reach you, they would either have to stop by or call the front desk. And this coming from me, a person, who goes on 10 day retreats of silence! I am not afraid to be alone or even to disconnect but it is so hard to do in everyday life. Wisdom 2.0 by Soren Gordhamer is a simple book that has profound insight on how to integrate technology into life and work.

Technology Creates Community

Since its inception in 2004, North of Eden has been using technology to build a community of dreamers. North of Eden is an organization dedicated to Archetypal Dreamwork that includes the Center for Archetypal Dreamwork, a retreat center in Vermont, North of Eden Press, an online literary and arts journal called deLuge, and a group of trained therapists.

The core of Archetypal Dreamwork, which was founded over 35 years ago by Marc Bregman, is the intimate one-on-one relationship with a therapist, in which the dreamer steps into the profound images and feelings that the dreams present. Over time, this work grew from the intimacy of one-on-one therapy to include group work, as led by Christa Lancaster, and a center of study.

With the publication of The History of Last Night’s Dream, by Rodger Kamenetz, and interviews of Rodger, Marc, and Christa on national shows that include Oprah’s Soul Series and NPR’s On Point,, this work has reached an international audience, drawing people as clients, retreat participants, and students.

To meet this growing need, we have been working to extend this work beyond our physical location in Vermont. The challenge has been how to use technology to bridge the physical gap between teacher and student, dreamer and dream practitioner, especially with work that involves descending into the dream itself, in a visceral way. How could we create a container in which dreamers can experience profound encounters with the images and feelings from their dreams, which are capable of bringing about incredible transformation? Could this be done without the physical presence of the therapist or teacher? Because of the deeply personal and emotional nature of this work, we were unsure at first how people would experience it through technological media.

We are happy to report that this can work. With the advent of Skype, people far from Vermont have face-to-face dreamwork sessions. Once something only people in Vermont were doing, this work is now done by phone and Skype with people all over the country and the world, in places as far-flung as Canada, Israel, Alaska, South Africa, Hungary, Norway, Italy, and Germany.

When the Center for Archetypal Dreamwork was launched in 2009, we knew we needed to extend our courses of study to the people we were in community with both near and far. Videoconferencing has made this not only possible, but successful. On any given day, classes are held in which 4 to 20 people might be participating in classes via videoconference, along with those who are present physically. They draw and share their artwork, they write in community and share their writings, they watch demonstrations of String Therapy, a unique process of group enactment that brings the unconscious to consciousness. They sing, they laugh, and they cry as they share the depths of their personal processes.

North of Eden began as a website (, a place for people to share their stories, their deep inner processes, their challenges and triumphs. Today that website is a dynamic place where people can come to learn about upcoming events that may be happening where they live, to read the stories of people who do this work, and to watch videos of String Therapy. The website also offers radio interviews with founders Christa Lancaster and Marc Bregman and songs inspired by the dream journey, as well as books to read and our online journal, which includes artwork, songs, and writings. Most exciting is our Submit a Dream program, in which visitors to the site can submit a dream and receive a response from one of our student therapists, to see if this work touches them.

In bringing technology into our work, we find that it does have its limitations. Teachers need to remember to address online students specifically, ask for their feedback and questions, so they feel a part of the class. Our tech team consists of many nontechnical people who have had a steep learning curve, and need to keep on top of new developments. New videoconferencing platforms require camera upgrades and, for some students, upgrades to their computers’ operating systems. We cannot always solve technical issues, and online participation is still not completely like being there in person. However, people tell us all the time that the ability to be with us in these many ways helps hugely in giving them the sense of community they need to brave the journeys they are so courageously pursuing.

Technology has been a big part of the evolution of bringing Archetypal Dreamwork from an individual, private process, to a worldwide community of seekers who can support each other in the deep work they are doing. People who were once doing this work in isolation now feel this support, which empowers them to bring their private inner growth into their outer lives. In being seen, heard, and validated, and in learning from the work others are doing, this dream community (growing by the day), is becoming a powerful force of change individually and globally.

We can hardly wait to see what’s next.

Alive Enough was an eye opening broadcast for me. Sherry Turkle’s investigation and view of the effect technology can/is having on today’s society is somewhat frightening. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that technological advances are for the most part a wonderful thing; a way to improve conveniences and efficiencies of our lives. But as she points out, in many circumstances it is coming at the expense of our children.
Ms. Turkle explains the importance of keeping some “sacred spaces” in our homes and lives tech free. For me the diner table is a no brainer. Use that time to really connect and stay involved and informed with our children. She also pointed out that when we consider this problem most people (myself included) immediately think of our kids being on their cell phone or texting. While this obviously does happen, I think it is us as parents that need to consider our own use of technology. Ms. Turkle suggested that when kids come home from school or some activity how important it is to welcome them home, ask how their day was, etc. Not while you also text someone else or surf the web, but connect with them alone. You know, communicate with them to let them know you care.
The day after listening to this show I witnessed first hand the damage that can be done. My wife and I pulled up to a restaurant. We had to wait a second to park because two kids probably 8-10 years old came running out of the restaurant with huge smiles on their faces yelling Daddy! They each grabbed a suitcase out of a vehicle and went running to a car a couple of spots down. A young man gets out of the drivers seat with a cell phone to his ear, smiles at them but doesn’t say a word or put his cell phone away. He just opened the back door to let the kids get in. The kids smiles just completely disappeared, their heads sank low. They looked completely defeated as they threw their suitcases in the car and climbed in. It was so sad it about broke my heart. Please parents, I beg you. Give your kids the support, attention, and love they need and deserve. Those are things that technology can not give them that they so desperately need. Only you can, and they are a lot more important than any phone call.

There is so much that is fascinating in this conversation. I'm an IT person, I program for a living, and I follow developments in artificial intelligence and robotics as time allows, but I'm not deep into it. It used to be that I was the one who was most involved with computer technology, spending hours alone in the basement chatting online while other people were telling me that computers would hurt my social skills, and that I had to go outside and play. (the program on the power of play was another interesting one, by the way :) ). I'm still very involved with technology (more than I should be, possibly) but I learned early that I have to turn it off at some times. I wouldn't come close to putting my whole life on Facebook or spending hours checking status updates the way some people do, and the idea of paying attention to your blackberry when you've got a person sitting beside you, or particularly a child who wants your attention, is very foreign to me. So for me it's fascinating that now large parts of the general population has moved to where I was, and I've moved back towards where the general population used to be. I still have work to do, though - I have a friend who continually tells me I should budget some time to go out and just look around, enjoy a sunset. Although I listen to podcasts while I'm doing many non-thought-intensive things, I do wonder whether I've taken the constantly having a pair of headphones in streaming me new information too far, and whether I might do better to take them off and take more time to think and process what I've heard, rather than replacing it with new information before the old has sunk in and made a difference. Somewhat ironically, some prior On Being podcasts on attentiveness to the present moment have hit home for me and made me question whether I'm listening to too many podcasts :).

I listened to the full uncut interview, including the part about how robots can be made to push our Darwinian buttons. I think this research needs to be made very widely available. In the same way that knowledge of how marketers push our "buy this" buttons is important for consumers, knowledge of how robots can be made to push our "empathize with this" buttons can help us to manage the increasing integration of robots into our daily lives. Also, I think it will help us manage our person to person relationships better - who wouldn't like to have a better idea what to look for in others, and what to do yourself, to successfully make a connection? If we can build robots that connect well with humans, that means we have the knowledge to help people do the same.

Finally, I just want to say thank you for a wonderful podcast (not just this one, but On Being, and before it Speaking of Faith). I own and run a small religious forum that aims to bring together people of differing beliefs, and part of why I do it is to find ways to deal with the tribalism that tends to happen between believers of various religious persuasion and atheists. I frequently reference discussions on On Being, because I find them to be thoughtful and thought-provoking, and the tone of the show is similar to the tone I aim for in my own discussions.

I inflicted about 10 minutes (26:53 thru 37:00) of the unedited interview on my young adult children during dinner (uh-oh...). This led to an hour of terrific discussion. The key take-away - Jill Ker Conway was right: "A child has to live in her generation."

Busy, busy, busy—that is the underlying beat I hear from people now-a-days. Technology has kept us so busy that we live our lives without truly living. We go through the motions and, yet, we get nothing out of them at the end. Technology has gotten us very far, but, at the same time, has dwindled our quality time with one another. In high school, I remember a time when owning a cell phone was the greatest thing ever. Today, I see little kids in elementary school talking, walking, and texting. Everywhere I look, I see iPods, smart phones, laptops, and all these other new technological devices. On top of all this, there is Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and MySpace. There are all these various online profiles that people spend a majority of their day updating statuses, changing profiles, requesting random friends, and chatting. One thing that I’ve notice about online profiles like Facebook is that it is so easy for people to say what is on their minds and their inhibitions are totally lost. Nobody cares if they’re offending someone else by their words and they don’t censor what they say about people.

All this screams to me is loneliness. Like Ms. Sherry Turkle mentioned in the broadcast, “If you don’t teach your children to be alone, they’ll always know how to be lonely.” If you are constantly reaching for your phone, checking your emails, updating your statuses, or plugging those headphones to your ears, it’s time to start living and breathing real human life. To me, people are afraid of solitude. We live in this world where we have to be at a running pace to keep up. When we do have these down times, we have absolutely no idea what to do with it. Afraid of being alone, we reach for comfort. The comfort of knowing that we are not alone in the internet world, comfort of those headphones, comfort of someone emailing you, and the comfort of realizing that technology is all we need. We have grown accustomed to being lonely and we don’t know how to be alone in our own solitude anymore. Technology is here for our entertainment and pleasure; let us not make it a lifestyle.

I really enjoyed listening to this broadcast. Ms. Sherry Turkle mentioned many things that hit so close to home with Technology and family.

this broadcast really put the implacations technology has on day to day life in perspective to those who do take it for granted. in this broadcast she really emphasizes the idea of the way the idea of normal family time has been corrupted in such a negative way from technology. technology has advanced so far in the past few decades that we are finally getting to the point were young families have primary knowledge on the technology, that families are starting to learn what they are giving their children, but it does not mean that they know how to properly do it.

one of the biggest problems shes brings up is the disruption in sacred places. including the dinner table, the car and other places. she says that problems are being bread from this becasue family time is diminishing in the way that instead of conversing families are to distracted by technology.

I found this interview very interesting. It helped me see how I have let technology become too important in my life. I have become so dependant on it, it’s kind of scary. Professor Turkle indicates that our cells phones have become phantom limbs, and that we think they are ringing or buzzing even when they are not. This is something I can attest to, I actually feel my phone vibrating even when it is not. I find myself constantly looking at it, or looking to see if the little light is flashing.

With how dependant we are on technology today, I wonder if those who attended the meeting in 1978 Professor Turkle talked about, sit back and laugh. She mentioned the meeting was to come of with ways for the general public to use computers, little did they know there is very little in 2011 we do not use some form of technology for. A key statement made in the interview, and one that I plan to look closer @ myself is if we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will only always know how to be lonely. I can see this in my 10 yrs old son, he gets bored and lonely so quickly, but in reality he does not spend that much time alone. Since hearing this interview, I have had him set aside some time everyday and just do nothing but hang out with himself. It was tough for him at first, but it has been a few weeks now, and he actually has started to find things to do on his own without me telling him too.

I also like the statement she made about a child has to live in their generation. We can not force them into things because of the way we were raised. She talks about car rides, and speaking from experience, when I ride in the car with my kids, not much talking is going on. Everyone usually has there device going, and communicating with people not in the car with us. (The only one not on a device is the driver) While I have not set any formal sacred places for no technology allowed yet, it is something my wife and I are discussing. Because of kids I also feel I need to have my cell phone so I can be accessible, but I wonder if that is an excuse for having the phone with me at all times. A couple of days after listening to this conversation, on my way to work I realized I forgot my phone. So did I go on and show I could make it through the day without it? No, I turned around and cost myself about ½ hour to go back and get me phone. I need to cut the cord to it, but will have to do it in baby steps.


I really enjoyed this broadcast. What I found most interesting is where Sherry Turkle points out that parents are more distracted by technology than children. The example she used was the child 'bargaining' with the mom to keep dinner short so that the father would stay off his Blackberry during dinner. In day to day life, I have never realized how dependent we are on technology. If I forget my phone, I will turn around and go home to get it. I have made more of an effort to stop doing that since listening to this broadcast. I always hear the question come up with parents about their children wanting cell phones and if they should be allowed to have them? I dont have to worry about that right now but it does appear that children do not rely on technology as much as we do, however, our actions are trickling down on the younger generation.

I, also, found her comments on email hitting close to home. I know of countless times where I have sent emails and wonder why I have not received a response within the hour. I thought it was just me but apparently it is not the case. I am a small business owner and try to always respond within 2 hours of receiving an email. While it can be difficult, I have had so many client who make positive comments about how quick I respond. At times, I would love to 'file email bankruptcy'. In this day and age, everyone is tied to technology somehow. While there are good things with all this technology, I sometimes wish we could go back 20 years!!!

In the program, Krista Tippett interviews Sherry Turkle, an author who has continually noted the significant impact technology has had on our society. While portraying the disorienting effects of technology, Turkle also emphasizes the importance of solitude in our lives. Consequently, Tippett and Turkle approach the harsh reality that technology could change our perspective on aliveness.

In Turkle's book, she highlights the subjective side of technology, confronting how it effects our sense of aliveness, attentiveness, and relationships. She described that people in today's society are looking for objects to fill in human meaning and are using this in every aspect of their lives. Technology has become such an immense portion of reality that it is impractical to attempt to cut it out completely. Nonetheless, to some extent, technology is a good thing, in the sense that it has allowed us to advance our intelligence and general understanding of life. Throughout the interview, Turkle highlights that people don't realize that we have control over how we let technology take away from us. She quotes Mark Zuckerberg in saying that "Privacy is no longer relevant", responding with the question "what is intimacy without privacy?". There's so much truth to this statement and question, as many people entirely exploit themselves and their lives on social network sites- not realizing that even though something may be "private", anything in cyberspace is accessible to anybody.

A good example Turkle used to illustrate the impact technology has on the concept of aliveness was through Piaget's research, in comparison to her own. Piaget wanted to know, how do children decide what's alive and what isn't? His study revealed that children perceived the aliveness of objects, by way of those which could physically move without assistance (ex. clouds). However, when Turkle conducted a similar study she noticed that it no longer mattered to kids whether something could physically expressed that aliveness penetrated and could even be represented by the "wisdom" of a computer. I was highly disturbed when she used the example of her daughter visiting the museum, with the Darwin exhibit. When her daughter saw that the turtles were sleeping, she said "For what this turtle is doing, we could just have a robot". And this was a pivotal moment for Turkle, because this example demonstrates that aliveness no longer mattered. This segment concluded with the convicting question, "What are children starting to miss, if they don't think it's important that things are alive?". To me, this is a striking thought....I don't think relationships and companionship can ever be replaced or justified with a gadget.

I found this interview very intriguing to listen to, as it is highly relevant to my life. I agree with Turkle that we need to learn to live deliberately with technology- because it isn't just going away, but rather advancing relentlessly. It broke my heart to hear her example that people can remain plugged in, even immersed in the beauty of nature. She said that in this way, we are losing experience as solitude. Unfortunately, this has a huge impact on us, because it is in our solitude that we have the opportunity to connect with something bigger than ourselves. I think the most important idea to take away from this is that we need to shape technology towards our purposes, rather than allowing it to shape us.

During this broadcast, Turkle discusses how we keep memories in the age of technology. She discusses how technology, like cell phones, have become so much a part of our life that they are like an extra limb. I thought about this and agree that I feel a little lost without mine, like something is missing. She mentions how some people use technology even when it would be easier to just use paper, like a calendar. We are sort of brainwashed into the idea that it is always better, but it's not. She wants us to realize that the internet is still in the baby stages and immature. We need to be asking questions about how we can make it work for us as well as making sure it does not take our "Aliveness" away.

As she has researched the impact of technology she has found that kids are seeing their parents have technology everywhere, even at what she calls "Sacred Spaces". These are times/places where the parent should be giving their undivided attention to their kids/family yet are texting, emailing, using their blackberry instead. I have to admit that when I bring my daughter to gymnastics I used to have my phone with me at all times. She has told me that she wants me to watch her and not my phone, which made me really think. If she is only 6 years old and feels like I care more about the phone than her, I am sending the wrong message. Since she told me this, I leave it in the car. She knows that I am there because I want to watch her, and this means so much to her, I can see it in her eyes!

This Aliveness that Turkle talks about is living in the moment, paying attention to the life around us. She used the example of going for a walk and having an ipod or cell phone while doing this. We should be using times like these to see the world around us and enjoy it. I think that if we always carry our cell phone, it takes some of our senses away. For example, would I notice the smell of the flowers if I was busy texting a friend? I don't think I would. I think I would be concentrating so much on the phone that I would miss so many things around me. I personally like hiking and every year my family goes to northern Minnesota to see the world. Cell phones don't work up there, which is why I really like going there with my family. We are just in each others company without distractions, discovering the world together.

This On Being podcast was definitely close to my heart. The reason why this topic was so relevant is because I am an American Orthodox Muslim who vaguely understands the conflict in the Middle East. In particularly the conflict amongst the Palestinian and Israeli people which is not really addressed in the main media, besides of a few stories relating to the Gaza strip. This show brought light to my understanding of the perspective of a Palestinian man whom resides in Israel who consist of a dual identity, whom seeks peace within his home state of Israel.

Mohammad Darawshe is a Palestinian man who has an Israeli passport and is a citizen that resides in a city near Nazareth. He is a mulsim citizen within a Jewish state who is an active participant of bringing awareness to inhabitants within the Jewish state as well as the world, about improving relations between the Israeli arabs and the jewish people. During the time of conflicts between Israel and Lebonon, he constantly felt torn about whom he sided with due to feeling caught between the two. His dual citizenship allowed to be empathetic to both sides. This occurrence opened my eyes allowing me to realize that there is not only hate that takes place within the Middle East, but there are also individuals on both sides who want peace through being active and talking amongst several inhabitants about changing their mindset to a more positive and progressive outlook of life towards each other.

Even though he felt compassion for both sides of the conflict, the Israel military does not feel the same towards them. His perspective of having unity amongst the arabs and the Israeli jews are not felt by all jews. When arab towns, including his, are under attack from other arab rockets, the Israeli army is not willing to protect them, even though they too are citizens. This is very difficult for Mohammad to understand, but this does not deter him from working towards peace amongst all people who reside within the jewish state.

Within this podcast show, I learned that not everyone feels as if the only way to victory is through violent acts, prejudice outlooks, or hateful speech whom inhabit the Middle East. Both sides are at war over political agendas and religion preferences, but there are those whom want to see peace and harmony on both sides. I personally believe in peace and have before I converted to Islam five years ago, so I could not really understand why people constantly fight within this region of the world. This show allowed me to understand that there are those who are active, enlightening others about alternative options besides war in order to solve differences.

I have often thought about the obsessive nature of humans and something new -like, technology in our everyday lives. I truly believe in framing it in a more positive light. These are the 'adjustment days'...I believe. Yet, there is a very good chance that we will indeed lose touch with parts of ourselves that are more silent, more inherent to who we are.

I am a painter. A painter quite used to closing the studio door, and accessing those oft forgotten pieces. What I found myself doing in recent years was making paintings of people outdoors. In touch internally, with the living, breathing life force found Out Side. This came upon me unawares. There's a truth to this for me. When I lay on the ground, I feel comforted and protected. I find myself watching things like ants travel by. Birds soaring overhead. All kinds of cliched images can come to mind. But it's real. My paintings became journeys for me. A record of interactions of images seen, unseen, felt. How often do I slow down enough to pay attention to this? This is a question I ask myself all the time.

It's all about the balance. I don't feel technology is the evil beast. I personally need it to send my work out, for example. To share my journey in paint, and hope that it touches others in some way. It fosters conversation. And yes, there comes the moment when it isn't necessary. When do I turn it off? When can I recognize that now, it's empty viewing.. without purpose? A difficult moment to decipher in light of my rationalizing ways. It takes practice. It takes patience to understand that lightening fast speed doesn't happen in paint. Or, in life.

'Alive Enough' was a really interesting broadcast to listen to. Sherry hit on a lot of topics and how technology has affected and changed people a lot in ways that I have never thought of. A good example of hers is with students while they are at school. Students could tell when their phones were ringing even if their phone was in their locker and nowhere near them, almost like a phantom limb. I for sure can't tell when my phone is ringing if it isn’t on me because to me I really would have no way of knowing, but I can relate with thinking and feeling my phone vibrated and I go to check it and it never did vibrate.
Sherry also talks about how with computers originally people wanted them for address books and calendars, which works for all the different kinds of people who like variety. I had never thought about that as an original use for computers. Today some people work well with paper and having everything written down, yet others like all of that with on their computers or their phones, just technology over paper is better for them. Personally, my address book and phone numbers are all on my phone and if I lost my phone I wouldn’t be able to contact anyone, yet I keep my calendar on my door in my room. My work schedule and everything is on there and I refer to it every day to see what I need to be doing. A lot of people have that on their phones so while on the go they know what they need to be doing, but I like it all in one place.
She also talked about how children see things differently today. She told a story about her daughter when they went to visit the zoo and they saw a turtle sleeping and her daughter stated that the turtle could just be a robot. It didn’t matter to her daughter if the turtle was alive or not. A robot would have been alive enough to do the job of a sleeping turtle. I found it very interesting that a child thought of such a thing.

I studied Communications Theory in college, and experienced a eureka! moment while reading the work of Alfred Korzybski, founder of General Semantics, where he said: "The 'Map' is not the 'Territory'." It was a profound intellectual awakening, which was deepened later during my twenty years of Zen Buddhist practice. What I came to realize is that the totality of the world "out there" beyond my cognition--the territory--is only partially represented in my mind--my "map"--and it was and is important to recognize that no mental map I would ever produce of the territory could ever be adequately representative of the total reality "out there." Or for that matter,
"in here", for my cognition of myself is also limited. There is a lot more going on within the territory of my self than I am consciously mapping. Like all maps, our cognitive maps are highly selective and abstract in what is represented. A New York City subway map will not help us navigate New York City streets. A NYC street map will not necessarily help us understand the bus routs without a bus rout map which will not help us navigate the subways. And no map will give us the actual experience of the noise of the subway, or the traffic in the streets, or the crowds on the sidewalk, or the heights of the buildings, or the displays in the shop windows, etc. We require different mental maps for different journeys. The journey we took in Krista Tippet's conversation with Sherry Turkle certainly accords with a map of consciousness which suggests that the adaptations we are making to modern communications technologies are leading to altered, fragmented, dissatisfying human relationships to each other and to ourselves. I share the concerns in this viewpoint. However, I'm also aware that this is a challenge primarily for the affluent third of the world. I'm sure it's not a problem for most Kenyans, or Peruvians, or citizens of Bangladesh. I'm also aware that it is a challenge to be viewed in the context of the environmental/climate change/peak oil/energy crisis unfolding. Just as it is nearly impossible for all 6.9 billion people on earth to live like the most affluent people in the world without severe global environmental consequences, there are severe limits to how much the technologically driven behavior bemoaned in the conversation with Sherry Turkle can actually be adopted by everyone on earth. There are limitations of precious metals and rare earth elements needed to produce such technologies. There are limits to our energy systems--either we continue using fossil fuels to the detriment of our planet's climate, and to the detriment of our economy as oil depletes, or we transition to renewable forms of energy. But to produce photovoltaic technologies, and battery storage technologies for wind turbine energy, scarce precious metals and rare earth elements are needed which will prove limiting in a global population exceeding 9 billion people in 40 years. How will that affect economic production and our use of these gadgets--mobile phones, hand computers, etc.? When one changes the scale of the map with which we look at the current phenomenon of our obsession with communications technologies, and locates that phenomenon within the larger disintegration of the primordial order of nature, it is clear that neither can continue without serious dislocation to what we call human civilization--as nature is unraveled by human technology, so human nature will be unraveled by human technology, and all of this unraveling will lead to a new configuration, which is likely to be disastrous. What was discussed with Sherry Turkle is part of that process--but it won't last forever. Meanwhile, those with any modicum of spiritual discipline and awareness know exactly what to do: resort to mobile phones, e-mails, computers, MP3 players, etc. only when necessary and limited to specific places and times; otherwise maintain a healthy detachment by living in the territory of the real instead of unreal maps--by gardening, cycling, hiking, meditating, playing music (an instrument not a digital recording), practicing yoga or t'ai chi, making gourmet meals, painting, dancing, and so on. And enjoy relationships built around doing these real things, and real experiences rather than the cognitive delusions of abstract "maps" in technological software. All it takes is an actual hike in the woods (without cell phones) to realize that a digital streaming image of someone hiking in the woods on youtube is not the same thing. The "map", quite simply, is not the "territory."

I'm 74, writing my memoirs because of a MacBook. When I was a child with a radio, a Mother who worked and a grandmother who didn't communicate, it wasn't better. When I was a Betty Crocker Mother in the 60's and 70's with just a tv and a hi-fi, we didn't communicate any better at the dinner table. Life was hectic, a struggle and not meaningful. I have seen a grand child in a video from Kindergarten. Photos of grandchildren on blogs. I can compose music because of a keyboard, take photos. Upload something creatively meaningful to YouTube. (Better than a tombstone, I say) Today's culture is about sensation. The media wags the dog that once had hope, "Hey Joe, let's see that car wreck again!" "Let's see Nancy Reagan trip and fall 12 times." Thank goodness for Krista Tippett - you aren't on Prime Time - Now, that WOULD make a difference. The 6:00 O'clock News with Krista Tippett delivering unto us something about our moral compass.

If we reflect for a moment on humanity; it is hard to escape the fact that we are social animals. Babies could not survive without caregivers and civilization would not progress without specialization and cooperation. One of our biggest cultural problems is that; as individuals we do not reflect. Even those of us who take the time to do so are easily distracted. We are to varying degrees ignorant of our need to connect with each other as a basis for survival and progress.

The technological devises that are so prevalent in modern life increase our alienation from one another. It is so easy to interact with technology that we lose awareness of our distance from our own inner voices and deep connections with others.

As individuals we need to find the discipline to save ourselves from ourselves. We need a declaration of interdependence, to recognize our basic need for connection and act to grow those connections in public and private spaces.

Each era in human history has been marked by changes imposed or enabled by the advance of technology.

When I was in the Navy, we were stationed overseas in 1976 and had no telephones where we lived.

'Paying a call' on someone was the only means of communication and social interaction. This was not as easy or convenient as calling someone on the phone, and required a lot more time, thought and planning to coordinate meetings. Although a somewhat slower way to live (we were in our early 20s at the time), over time we found this way of life to be a more enjoyable and fulfulling way of interacting with our our friends and associates.

We looked forward to each meeting with a great deal of anticipation, and savored the companionship of our friends in the time we had together.

Of course, this was THE way of life for everyone before telephones came into widespread use in the early 20th Century, so we were in a sense going back to how Americans lived in those days. We enjoyed our experience immensely, and remember those days with great fondness.

It is not by coincidence that we have maintained many of these intimate friendships over 35 years' of time since.

Upon our return to the States two years later in 1978, we of course reverted to regular use of the telephone for our needs. While this was more convenient in every way, it was also accompanied by some sense of a loss of the intimacy and joy of social interaction that we had felt before.

Our lives resumed at a somewhat faster pace, and we adapted to it.

Clearly , there is no right or wrong here. Maybe only the message that, whatever the enabling technology we adopt for our use, the joy and deep satisfaction of intimate personal interaction and friendship should not be sacrificed along the way.

Facebook Friday

Needing to reduce my addiction to Facebook, but not wanting to give up the connections I've made in faraway places or the convenience of seeing everyone's latest pictures, I've decided to only go to Facebook on Fridays. It makes Fridays fun! And now my teen can't say, "Mom, you're on facebook more than me!!"

This is not personal, but of what another/others are doing:

Creating and updating a journal of their kids on-line (maybe 'in the cloud' or on one of the more private social networks). A bady-to-adult digital-book if you will. Journalling, pictures, notes, thoughts, major 'events' ...

My children are way past such an age, but I do love the thought

While listening to this show on my iPod (haha), I considered the question Krista posed. How do I use technology in a meaningful way? The most meaningful way I have used technology for the purposes of discovering and celebrating my "self" is indeed routinely listening to the On Being podcast on my iPod. I nurture my spirituality (at the very least) every Sunday going to my parents' church, but On Being satisfies my curiosity about the art of living in a personal way. I have considered how this type of "worship" has the potential of becoming a paradox, because as I am listening to and contemplating the ideas expressed by the people on this show in all reality I am forfeiting my awareness of what is going on around of me. I considered this dilemma last Sunday while riding in the backseat of a friend's car. My parents slept in that particular morning, which seems to have become a habit lately, and I was craving inner understanding and peace. As I was riding in the car with my boyfriend and his best friend I considered tuning out in order to tune in to Being. What would I miss riding in the car with them? We had a couple of destinations in mind: car dealerships. I determined that because I have not the funds to tempt myself to be materialistic and share their interest in new cars that it would be safe to tune out while they shared that moment together. Therefore, I turned on the Independence Day episode "The Inward Work of Democracy with Jacob Needleman." As I was listening, I tried to communicate that I wasn't completely removing myself from awareness, lovingly exchanging looks with my boyfriend and responding to their inclusion of me in making certain comments as best I could. It is worth noting that this was extremely difficult, as it was near impossible to refrain from deeply contemplating the ideas that Dr. Needleman brought forth. After listening to the show I felt my craving had been satisfied, but I couldn't ignore a sense of guilt for not having participated in much conversation with the boys. When we got home Dr. Needleman's call for having intelligent conversations with others about what America is and what it means to be an American also weighed heavily on my mind. I took a seat in the garage with my boyfriend and asked him what he thought America represents and whether it would be too ambitious of me to want to ask other Americans I may not know the same question. That garage quickly became what Professor Turkle would classify a sacred space. My boyfriend's best friend, who must have been drawn downstairs by my boyfriend's loud tenacity, entered into the conversation and all guilt for having removed myself from the car ride was resolved by our conversation in the garage. It was so delightful that when Krista posed the question about how we can make technology meaningful, I felt compelled to share!

Instead of sacred space Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote about sacred time. He called the Sabbath a "cathedral of time." I think a day or a certain period of time when we are not connected to technology can be good for everyone. I realize that it is hard to do, but it is possible.


Voices on the Radio

is Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT. She's the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. Her books include Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.

Production Credits

Host/Producer: Krista Tippett

Senior Editor: Trent Gilliss

Senior Producer: David McGuire

Technical Director/Producer: Chris Heagle

Associate Producer: Susan Leem

Producer: Nancy Rosenbaum

Coordinating Producer: Stefni Bell

Episode Sponsor