A psychologist weighs in on the spiritual potential of computers and social media.
Schneider (Supervision Essentials for Existential-Humanistic Therapy, 2016, etc.) uses his expertise as an existential-humanist psychologist to explore the ever growing worry that technology is fracturing people’s attention—and their psyches. He’s specifically concerned, as many other writers are, that an empirical, computational style of thought has metastasized into other areas of our lives. He initially promises to chart a middle road between rabid technophobia and zealous technocracy. For example, he points out that the tendency to prefer quantifiable information, because it’s easily processed by machines, results in scientific research that prioritizes topics that are similarly quantifiable. This, in turn, encourages a reductive understanding of how our own minds work, he says, as we develop a habit of metaphorically comparing ourselves to machines. Schneider urges readers to develop and maintain a sense of awe about the possibilities of the modern world. To that end, he moves from reflection to speculation as he hypothesizes what an “awe-based” computing society would look like. And, on a smaller scale, he effectively draws upon his own experience with cervical dystonia—a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary neck spasms—to show how avoiding ruthless efficiency in all things can open one’s eyes to new forms of understanding. These personal examples do much to humanize his argument—and to explain why he’s so skeptical of the promises of technology. He authentically presents what he sees as a psychic dilemma, but readers may find that his prescribed solution—to preserve one’s sense of awe—can feel anodyne at times. Ultimately, though, his sketches of various psychological methods to combat the metaphorical mechanization of the self offer readers solid and encouraging alternatives.
A cogent plea to neither reject nor embrace technology but to try instead to look beyond it.