Technology brings us together, if we want it to - Times LIVE
   
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Sat Dec 10 08:53:55 SAST 2016

Technology brings us together, if we want it to

Bruce Gorton | 2013-08-15 11:56:42.0
Men are silhouetted against a video screen with a Twitter logo as they pose with Samsung S3 and S4 smartphones in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica.
Image by: DADO RUVIC / REUTERS

One of the more puzzling things I have read in a long, long while was Terry Eagleton’s piece on how proud he is of not using email.

I mean that is a pretty strange thing to be proud of, not actually engaging in the technology of today and not particularly knowing what you are doing on any of it.

There is no virtue in what you don’t know and can’t do. There is no shame in it, because we are all mortal and we all have limited time and interest is a finite resource, but it isn’t something to boast about.

As I write this I think about things like a recent article from America’s NPR on libraries and video games.

What the librarians found was that when they hosted events where people could play games, circulation would go up.

Not only that, but people who struggled to read would take that extra effort to get better at it when it means understanding what was going on in a game.

We see that new age dawning, and it has its dangers. It is a world where quite literal rubbish may be watching you, where your personal details are up for sale to the highest bidder, and where you get endless streams of places you don’t bank at telling you somebody has withdrawn money from your account.

But we also see an age dawning where kids think libraries are the coolest places they know.

And I think of things like the rise of gaming in Kenya, where people like Wesley Kirinya are building games for smartphones, creating a new industry in that country.

We are made richer not just in terms of money, but in whom we are because science and technology have brought us together.

Some people proudly thump their chests over nationalism, homophobia, racism or sexism, and these people have communities online but it is not they who define where technology is taking the world.

They are the archaic remnants of identities forged before we could get into long-winded arguments with people a quarter of a world away we had never met, in agreement with people half a world away we will never meet.

We are being brought together by the realisation that our jerks are similar and our differences interesting. We have learned that for every voice yelling ‘kill the heretic’, there are a thousand heretics getting along quite happily.

The most dangerous advance of our era, the thing which shakes the boots of dictators and sends chills down the spines of the corrupt is not some weapon; it is a tool we use to talk to each other. It seems unstoppable as cries of 'Westernisation' or 'treason' get drowned out by the ring tones of justice.

You can get by just fine excluding yourself from all of this, but 'getting by' is one of the sadder phrases in the English language.

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