June 01, 2015

Advance Sheet: Don’t Blame the Technology

Technology didn't create ethical problems, but it sometimes makes misconduct more obvious.

Robert E. Shapiro

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Hardly a day goes by now without someone badmouthing technology. Technology, it is said by the naysayers, is responsible for all kinds of ills in our lives, from creating diseases of the brain to corrupting the youth. But it’s not just the Luddites who say so. What sensible observer doesn’t fret about texting-induced driving accidents, cell-phone-distracted dining companions and, Facebook revenge postings? Hacking has become daily news, sometimes with international ramifications. And anyone passing a secret must make the obligatory joke about National Security Agency snooping.

The young are called out as special offenders and particular victims. Millennials, it is said, have been shaped by technology. Their iGizmos and digital games, not to mention Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, are claimed to have turned them lazy, indifferent, distracted, impatient, and uncaring. They are business failures, we are certain. Start a conversation about millennials and you will quickly be regaled with tales of incompetence and unconcern. Technology zombies, they are routinely held responsible for every societal ill this side of global warming.

It’s a wonder that the pitfalls of technology are so group specific. And no small irony that these charges are being leveled in tweets and blogs. But expand the list of supposed offenders and victims as you will, and acknowledge the paradoxical means used by the commentators, the consensus is still that technology has engendered serious consequences—not just transforming every aspect of our lives, but changing human behavior as well. Woe to those who ignore its overwhelming impact on society generally.

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