The rise of the technophobic society

Don’t know about america, but britain seems to be getting increasingly technophobic. MSN’s decision to close its chatrooms seems to indicate that it is happening over there too. Why do MSN want to close the chatrooms? As I remember, paedophiles existed long before the internet. Will we see parks and swimming pools close next? I doubt it, as these don’t use new technology. I did hear a story on the news the other day about a paedophile abusing a child he met through a chat room. This was reported on the national news in the usual sensationalist way. Of course, general paedophile activity doesn’t make the news, but this was held up as an example of how the internet is destroying our society. The fact that thousands of people use chatrooms without abusing children seems largely unnoticed.

This is just the latest example of this attitude. I first really noticed it when mobile phones became prevalent in our society. There seemed to be an attitude that they were radioactive in someway. Even today, your not supposed to use a mobile phone in a petrol station, although I can’t for the life of me think of any reason why.

Do you find america has the same attitude? Is it something that is getting worse, or has progress always been so difficult to accept?

There are also many campaigns against genetic modification. Often, the UK press refers to GM foods as Frankenstein foods. I think this is accurate in the way that the public reaction seems to be one step short of a torch wielding mod storming a castle. I can’t remember anyone actually stating a coherent argument as to why GM foods are dangerous. People seem to be shocked that a tomato might contain fish genes. Personally, I eat tomatos, and I eat fish. Sometimes even at the same time. What is the big deal? Are people frightened that were going to see Giant Fish monsters with all the powers of a tomato? Wouldn’t it be nicer to be able to feed the world?

I hate this luddite attitude. When the motor car was invented, there were stories that people who said we would suffocate if we went above 12 mph. Wasn’t true of course. I blame the news media mostly, as they seem to like to prey on peoples fears. What I can’t understand is why people are always ready to believe a journalist/politician over a scientist, even when a scientist can back up his claims with facts.

Personally, I think cell phones can be dangerous…In the wrong hands, at the wrong time - like while they’re driving!

Other than that little issue, and some other locations where they might cause some sort of interference, they’re ok with me.

GM in foods? Oh the horror! Most foods are already pumped up with all kinds of preservatives and additives, with no intention of GM, and yet may cause some in the long run, anyway. For instance, meat. I’m sure that most animals that are going to be butchered are given something to make them bigger (GM for animals?), which means bigger profits when they’re sold to us. Of course, we are what we eat, aren’t we? So, while enjoying that steak, pork, chicken, etc…We’re also ingesting whatever helped these critters grow big faster. Consequently, there may be some effect there…perhaps moreso with kids maturing at earlier ages…

I’d like to state right here and now that I’ve not done any research on this- I certainly don’t have the time. So this is basically an off the cuff opinion.

Well, by the time the luddites get too assertive, we can mow them down with our 2020s-style death rays.

I have recently noticed the “No cell phone” notices around gas stations. It seems absolutely silly. I would feel embarassed just to put that sticker on a gas pump. Let alone the ignorance it takes to pay some one to print them.

The fear associated with new things is partly due just to that. New things are unfamiliar and therefore suspect. In the case of technology we have the added impetus that our world is dominated by technologies that are quite recent. Very few of the things we take for granted today were available 100 years ago. There can be a certain amount of fear associated with a tool you cannot even imagining your grand parents using. What this means is that any anxiety about the state of the world today can be transfered to technology. So, if you come to realize the divorce rate is much higher today than 50 years ago, you might come to blame TV, computers, or any number of new things for societies woes.

I don’t think the luddites are a new phenomena, but with the acceleration of change over the last 100 years or so, the presures that create them have increased proportionally.

Remember, in the future there will be 2 kinds of people: Those who know how to use computers and their slaves.

Of course we have to survive a few counter revolutions first :smiley:

I think society really is divided into two halves, and really always has been, but its becoming polarized in recent years. Marketing has always known the fact that there are two types of consumers, and different extremes of those types.

There are the cutting edge folk who must have something new because, or mainly because, it is new. They’re the ones out waiting for the store to open the day a shipment gets in and are willing to pay whatever cost to have this revolutionary new potato peeler. They’re the extreme innovators.

Their less extreme brethren are just as excited, but read more reviews and purchase more carefully from things. They may want that new GigaPlexer 29000000, but they’ll take the model before if they really can’t afford anything else. They tend to lag behind a couple of months, but still have that same spark around technology.

Then you’ve got, at the other end, those who will only buy a new product if they absolutely are being coerced into it. They fear, for one reason or another, that they won’t know what to do with it, or it’ll be unreliable, or something will go wrong. They don’t trust technology, or most especially themselves with technology. They will only ever buy technology under the most extreme duress and use it only when absolutely necessary.

Their less extreme brethren are not interested in new-fangled stuff either, but can be convinced to purchase if they see a use for it. They’re the sort that buys a computer to balance their checkbook, and may eventually be coerced to use e-mail in their spare time. They’ll never use the computer for anything much more than that and a few games, though.

Then maybe you should go back to Amishtown!:smiley:

People fear what they don’t understand and most people don’t understand technology.
pervert might have been joking but it is true. Knowledge is power and most people don’t want to be at the mercy of a pale, bespeckled kid.

“Mad Scientist” or “Dr Frankenstein” syndrome. The constant portral of the scientist as the mad genius seeking to twist nature for his own benefit. (as opposed to the trustworthy idealistic “Woodward and Bernstein”/“Lois Lane” journalist, constantly seeking truth for the betterment of mankind).

People trust what the see on TV or read in a book or magazine. Most people have little interest in reading about technology.

One of the most incredible things about the “no cell phones at the petrol station” rule in the UK, is that a lot of them have decided to make extra money by putting hidden cell phone transmitters in their signs. And they still have the no cell phone signs on the forecourt.

Personally speaking, it all pisses me off no end. I don’t know if anything can be done about it. If people don’t like technology, they don’t have to use it.

I seem to remember that the US doesn’t do any stem cell research, although the UK and a lot of european countries do. I think is down to the shrubs own religious beliefs. If people are religious, or have serious moral reservations about using stem cells, then thats absolutely fine. Don’t use them. Personally speaking, I have no qualms at all, and am looking forward to the day I become an immortal. I also suspect that a lot of the people who are condemning the use of stem cells now will be taking sly trips to europe when they discover they have lung cancer.
(I do concede though that SC research is slightly different, as there are some ethical question marks).

Maybe you should go back to reality. Cell phone use while driving should be banned. It should be considered to be a “hazardous distraction” and banned on the same grounds that one can’t legally have a television for the driver to watch sitcoms on while driving.

There is a difference between wanting sane use of technology and technophobia. I don’t drive my car ten feet just to get my mail, then drive it ten feet back up the driveway, for example. It’s not because I’m a technophobe, it’s because I’m not an idiot. Likewise, I dislike those people who insist upon using telephones while driving because they are creating a road hazard.

Of course, the utterly stupid will not be able to understand that there is a middle ground between technophobia and compulsive technoaddiction.

No, in this case people fear violent death. I live in a city with the highest death rate due to red light and stop sign running in the US, Phoenix AZ. I don’t need to have my life ended by someone concentrating on a cell phone call or any other distraction when they should be driving. All the studies I’ve head about recently say that even say that even hands free phones are distracting as hand held so I expect that all cell phone use while driving may be banned and I won’t fight it.

People do fear what they don’t understand and technology has long passed the state where the average person can understand. Lots of people use computers but that’s a far leap from understanding them.

There may also be some legitimate concern regarding GM foods. If these crops are widespread enough to force out native plants in countries around the globe we could be at risk for a devastating wipeout from some as yet unknown source. The potato famine and the destruction of native French grape crops spring to mind as examples of wide spread failure of food sources in the past (not that they were GM, but I think you get the point).

There is also concern that these crops may be modified to prevent continued breeding and production requiring farmers to annually buy seed from producers, essentially holding hostage the food producing capability of developing nations. Given the unethical greed we’ve seen from some large corporations I don’t think this is impossible.

Slight Hijack…

Some feel there may be another underlying reason to the closing of the chat rooms.

Whether that is true or not, I don’t know. But it is an interesting alternate take on the situation.

Maybe “understand” isn’t the right word. As you point out, most people drive cars but I would hazard that few would be able to explain the workings of an internal combustion engine, let alone a computerized fuel injection system. Maybe I should have said “people fear what they don’t feel comfortible with being able to control”.

Case in point - two members of the previous generation most familiar, my mom and dad, have very diferent views on technology. My dad is a mechanical engineer who does sales for a big modern company. My mom is in healthcare. As far back as I can remember, dad was always dealing with power couplings and servos and digital thingamabobs. When his company gave him a lap top, it just became one more technical gizmo that he had to become familiar with. He has nowhere near my understanding of it since I worked in the industry, but he is not like my mom who takes to a computer like a money taking to an electron microscope.

Obviously you also share my mom’s affliction of being unable to detect sarcasm or ironic humor.

This is a perfect example of science supplanting religion. Irrational faith based on what science “will one day achieve” replaces the religious faith in the afterlife.

This is what “luddism” serves to balance. Technophobia is response to technophilia.

There is a lot of money to be made in selling people new things. We rely on the goverment to make sure these things are safe. But elected officials are in turn subsidized by the same companies that make these new products. An extra amount of wariness around new things is not that unhealthy of a response to this sort of situation.

Think of the scientific process. Just because an idea is new doesn’t mean it’s better. It has to go through a thorough process in which the burden of proof rests upon the new idea. It may even encounter an emotional response making it harder for it to be accepted. Einstein never accepted quantum mechanics. And that’s ok. He was a brilliant scientist who contributed a lot to human knowledge. It’s just the natural pace of things.

Are you msmith537’s mum?

Seriously though, I do take your point about new not being better. Any product must be safe before inflicting it on the general public. My original point was that this decision seems to be less and less in the hands of scientists, who I consider the people best qualified. Instead, a journalist will form an opinion, which is passed on to the masses, who force the politicians to act. I would like to see a methodical, impartial process to determine the safety of any new product.

I am a self confessed technophile, but only where the technology makes life better not worse. I don’t think its an irrational faith with science. Certainly not in the way a religion works. Stem Cell research has shown remarkable healing properties, and could well extend the lives of all of us. I based my expectation of the future on what scientists can prove already. I am fairly optomistic about the future however, and that science will improve the quality of life for everyone.

I think technophobes do have an irrational faith that science will lower the quality of life for everyone, but this often seems to be based on very spurious information.

For the same reason you’re not allowed to smoke at the pump - petrol fumes + a spark = BOOM!

It is healthy to have reservations about technology. Where the boundary between having reservations and being a technophobe is, I don’t know.

I, personally, am quite concerned about GM foods, though not for health reasons (though that may come later). It seems to me that the degradation of crop strains and the environment (in particular, the growing environment) is a real threat. Crops like Monsanto’s Roundup Ready are bad news from these standpoints; in addition, the idea of having a crop that requires that the manufacturer’s herbicide or pesticide be used makes my skin crawl. Of course, conventional pesticides and herbicides have their well-known drawbacks as well. Where is the balance? I don’t know, but as consumers we should keep our eyes open.

I’m also concerned about medical technology, not because I don’t like it, but because it seems to have the side effect of making medical care increasingly unaffordable. I wouldn’t want medical science to have not evolved beyond the 1950s (or 40s or …), but if very few can afford it, the general good is ill-served. Again, where’s the balance?

I’m hoping that we ordinary folks have a hand in determining where the balance is, and not the greedheads, but I’m not optimistic.

Perhaps by a matter of degree but most intelligent people understand there is an engine that makes the whees turn, etc. etc. Even without complete understanding of the process there is something tangible that does something on a macroscopic level.

I don’t expect even a CS major to know how many transistors are in an AND gate to have a logical understanding of how a CPU works. That process is however completely abstract to mom an pop. We might chuckle at someone who thinks a “more powerful” computer will make his electic bill go up but that’s more a refletion on bad terminology than that person’s understanding.

Except in most cases, including stem cell research, science is not based irrational faith. It is quite rational and based on qualitative, quantifiable information, research, and facts rather than pure faith, although there is definitely faith involved.

There is an example of Tecno Euforia gone awry… a teacher once told us they had machines where you could see an x-ray of your foot and the shoe store guy would check the size of you feet in it. Basically you got irradiated just to determine shoe size and some novelty factor.

So worries about GM or Franken foods is warranted to a point... better make sure first instead of rushing ahead. The US is being too little cautious and the Europeans over cautious thou. 

I wouldnt say Technofobia is widespread thou... except older generations... and its more about not wanting tech rather than fearing it.

This seems to pretty much be an urban legend. Not that there is no danger at all, just that it is an extremely small danger.

From here,

Also interesting, according to the information I could find, is that not a single incident of this has ever been confirmed as happening. There are some hoax emails around that make the claim though.