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Are Computers Transforming Humanity?

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Carnegie-Mellon University Professor Dan Siewiorek

CMU Professor Daniel Siewiorek says technology has altered perceptions of privacy. "Certainly what we let hang out there has changed," he says.

Carnegie Mellon University

Researchers and technologists agree that computer technology is fueling significant changes in individuals and society as a whole, and the endpoint is unknown.

Carnegie-Mellon University professor Daniel P. Siewiorek says that our perception of privacy has changed in response to technology, and that a certain lack of concern about revealing personal details has infiltrated our lives. Jennifer Earl of the University of California, Santa Barbara observes that innovative uses of technology are enabling new communal efforts, in particular those that span heterogeneous groups. Social Solutions president Patricia Sachs Chess notes that technology also is creating changes in communication, such as the growing use of slang, jargon, abbreviations, phonics, and colloquial syntax in electronic discourse. This trend could augur a transformation of our values, skills, and capabilities, with some experts worried about declining grammar and writing proficiency, among other things.

Others are concerned that meaningful interactions between people could be adversely affected by a digital narcissism, which Rochester Institute of Technology professor Evan Selinger describes as people's use of social networking and other electronic mediums "to tune out much of the external world, while reinforcing and further rationalizing overblown esteem for their own mundane opinions, tastes, and lifestyle choices."

Another technology-driven change researchers are seeing is one of brain function, with Arizona State University professor Brad Allenby predicting that "once we get seriously into [augmented cognition] and virtual reality, the one who has the advantage isn't the one who is brilliant but the one who can sit in front of the computer screen and respond best."

Researchers also wonder whether the unending stimulation and ongoing demands of technology, while perhaps making us better multitaskers, is lessening our deep thinking abilities.

From Computerworld
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