Is Technology Creating New Conflicts All Over The World?

Marshall McLuhan, a philosopher, once suggested that the medium is the message. This means that the technology used to send a message is more important than the message itself, at least from a cultural perspective.

The Dangers of Television According to McLuhan

For instance, McLuhan was very much against the medium of television.

“Marshall McLuhan explaining how the “one-liner” is symptomatic of the shortened attention-span of children. It’s all to do with television, which McLuhan claims, has a negative effect on the nervous system.”

According to McLuhan, the fact that television delivers pixelated images would lead to people unconsciously joining themselves onto the television itself, developing an addiction and becoming homogenized by it. In simpler terms, the many movies such as Tron, where people “enter” the televised world, is precisely what McLuhan was afraid of. But more specifically, he felt that humans would start to naturally resist this, and to do so by becoming more tribal. This, in turn, would lead to greater geopolitical conflicts as people suddenly want to assert their nationalistic identities again. He felt a perfect example of this was the Cold War, which some people believe was made so bad because television told people how dangerous it was.

How McLuhan’s Concept May Apply to New Technology

Interestingly, McLuhan died long before the emergence of Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. He died before he could see just how threatening new technology can be. Just as McLuhan had feared, improvements in technology do not encourage self-expression and individuality, but rather obliterate and ruin them.

It is said that, today, the most valuable currency is insight into behaviors. This is seen by the amount of attention that companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook are pouring into gaining a greater understanding of their users. Facebook, for instance, is developing technology to literally read your mind.

“Dugan says Facebook’s goal is to develop something it calls a “brain click – a way to complete tasks in augmented reality using your mind. You could brain click to dismiss a notification that popped up on your AR glasses, for example. Researchers at Building 8, who have teamed up with medical institutions around the country, want to turn the brain into an input device, starting with letting people type with their thoughts.”

If that isn’t frightening enough, a lot of research has also been conducted on other, more personal impacts experienced as a result of the increase in availability of advanced technology. People are literally addicted to their smartphones and spend every waking moment on social media. Images of people no longer looking at each other, but looking at a screen instead, are seen everywhere. It is an addiction and one that is socially acceptable. Then, there is the fact that people measure their worth through social media. They constantly share everything that they do with the world, hoping for “likes” and “retweets” to demonstrate that they are worthy. It is now known that there is a link between social media usage and mental illness, in fact.

“Research has shown that young adults with a strong Facebook presence were more likely to exhibit narcissistic antisocial behavior; while excessive use of social media was found to be strongly linked to underachievement at school.”

There is a biological process within human beings that stops them from fully integrating into an outside force, including technology. People must, for whatever reason, retain their free will. Once this starts to be chipped away at, they respond. And it seems that McLuhan’s observations were right in suggesting that this response is usually an increase in tribal conflict. A quick look around the world – Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, the Catalonian protests – and it seems that there is indeed an increasing incidence of worldwide conflicts.