Does gaining something new mean losing everything old?

Does gaining something new mean losing everything old?

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This week we’re quoting Walter Ong (American Philosopher)

What Ong said: 

“Technologies are artificial, but … artificiality is natural to human beings. Technology, properly interiorized, does not degrade human life but on the contrary enhances it.” 

What’s our point? 

This quote comes from Ong’s 1982 book, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. It’s been on our minds because we just wrote a blog post about coming of age in the metaverse. 

And that blog post is about a study of people’s online interactions which forces us to question what ‘natural’ means when it comes to human relationships. 

As a species, we have a tendency to make a clear distinction between ourselves and nature. Nature is something out there, away from us – and the things we create, the buildings and cities and technologies we develop, are not natural. 

But if we’re inherently part of nature, isn’t everything we create natural (in a way) as well? A human’s house as natural as a bird’s nest; a computer as natural as a rudimentary tool.

That all sounds a bit philosophical

Yes. But as the speakers and exhibitors at LEAP remind us all the time, the use of technology has to be coupled with philosophy. We have to keep asking the kinds of questions that can’t be answered very easily (or at all) – because that’s what keeps connecting us to our humanity, to the uncertainty of life, and to the purpose of the technologies we develop. 

Ong was talking about the shift to written culture 

He wasn’t writing about the development of AI or robotics. Ong was writing about the shift from oral culture to written culture, and how that transition was believed to completely transform society, and change human selfhood and identity. 

But his words are very relevant today – as we face another shift, towards digital culture. 

There’s a lot of fear surrounding this transition; a sense that aspects of humanity will be lost, that our relationships will be forever changed, and that we won’t experience life as fully as we did before digital technology was widely accessible. 

When we transitioned from oral to written culture, speaking didn’t disappear. People didn’t stop communicating with their voices because they could also communicate in writing. The spoken world around us didn’t become irrelevant. 

And in the same way, the physical world around us won’t become irrelevant just because we can now live some aspects of our lives online. 

We don’t mean to underplay the risks and concerns of AI and the digital transformation

There are very real risks. There is a need for greater understanding of safety and personhood online. And a need for collaboration and cooperation to develop guidelines, regulations, and laws that protect people in the new spaces we inhabit. 

But at the same time, we think it’s important to remember that as a species, we’re highly capable of integrating new technologies into our lives in a positive way – without losing everything else. 

Truth time: 

The tech industry, and technology marketers in particular, have a role to play here.

Tech marketing tends to lean heavily into hype. Solutions and services promise to ‘revolutionise’ and to ‘change the way we live.’

And this might be true. But when tech tells the world it’s going to change everything, people get scared. They think, but we don’t want everything to change. 

So as we move into this new year, we encourage all the tech marketers out there to think not just about how they’re selling their products, but also about how they’re selling tech in general. 

Could the language marketers choose cause fear? Could it drive resistance to new technologies, instead of encouraging tech acceptance – because every new tech product promises to be the one thing that’ll change the world forever? 

We can embrace the benefits of emerging technologies while also enjoying parts of our lives that generations before us have enjoyed. So let’s start telling people that. 



Have an idea for a topic you'd like us to cover? We're eager to hear it! Drop us a message and share your thoughts.

Catch you next week,
Richard McKeon
Group Marketing Director

P.S. - Mark your calendars for LEAP 2024 📅 4-7 March 2024. Want to be a part of the action?


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