A well-paced consideration of the effects of technology on lives made ever busier by it—and whipping by in a whirlwind as a result.
Consider the younger cohort of the millennials, who have grown up digital, date online, buy online, and live online. They are likely to become “fragile, narcissistic young adults,” disconnected to others and disaffected overall. Or are they? By another gauge, these digerati are “less materialistic than their parents, more socially liberal, completely at ease with modernity.” Which view of them is correct? Both, writes U.K. columnist and commentator Colvile: technology enables both anomie and activism. One thing is certain, however. Among the social effects of this technology are the increasing fragmentation of time and the sense that there’s never enough of it, wherefore we attempt to juggle too much, even though, “hummingbird mentality” notwithstanding, we know that multitasking is a fraud. There’s little new in the author’s description of the modern scene and plenty of the we’ve-heard-it-before variety. James Gleick got to the heart of the argument 17 years ago in Faster. Where Colvile’s account is useful is in documenting what has happened in the years since in terms of our mores and expectations. Most of the British author’s examples come from Wales, Scotland, and the files of David Cameron; when he writes of our material desires, he includes among them the ability to get “fruit and veg” in every season. The prescriptive part of the program gets a little fuzzy: technology can be destructive, sure, but if it accelerates to the point that it can solve climate change, then it will be good, right? Generally optimistic, Colvile closes with the hedged observation that it will take far-seeing, imaginative leaders to be sure that “techno-Utopia for the few does not become dystopia for the many.”
A familiar argument but with interesting twists and a rosier forecast than many other books of social/technological criticism.