Intentionality: Value Apart from the Machine

By on August 4th, 2017 in Human Impacts, Last Word, Magazine Articles

In this issue, we acknowledged that technologies are not merely aids to human activity, but powerful forces acting to shape, or reshape, our world [1]. We surveyed a future with robots. We contemplate the advantages of indefatigable humanoids with enhanced physical capability to care for the more vulnerable members of society. Yet, we also perceive the threats of dehumanization when activities done by empathetic human caregivers are offloaded to thinking machines who cannot share in our grief, heartache, or pain [2].

Our peers also drew our attention to the dangers of constant time-stress, and the frenetic pace of a highspeed, high-pressured, 24/7 connected world. We perceive how easy it is for us to be lulled into technological somnambulism [1]. Our peers also cautioned us to guard against the overreach of technological determinism. We were reminded; even if technologies significantly influence our world, technology does not predominantly determine our cultural values or social structures. Popnology events demonstrate vividly how pop culture has shaped technology. Social structures can be the means by which we mediate our interactions with technology. At unplugged parties, participants relinquish their phones at the door before entering the party. Other social collectives champion technology-free zones, digital sabbaticals, mindfulness apps, and gadget-free camps for adults. Some breweries require that guests unplug to engage the five senses. Certain restaurants in New York offer 50% off to patrons who turn off phones during the meal. With intentionality, these social structures are rearranging the combination of human and nonhuman actors to preserve the value of being human apart from the machine.

Undoubtedly, technologies are powerful forces of influence. Yet, the effect of technologies on our lives might be less about technology and more about the priorities and parameters we set [3]. We are not fated to live subjugated to technology. We are equipped with choice; and our choices are not subjected to fixed, mechanical temporal forces, or even to the arbitrary influences of fate [4]. Providentially, in this issue, our peers did well to empower us with practical tools and restorative alternatives to better equip us to shape (or reshape) our lives in a world of pervasive technology.


Christine Perakslis is Associate Professor in the MBA Program, College of Management, Johnson & Wales University, Providence, RI. Email:
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