My work right now is about the shift in socialization occurring in American culture due to the advent of digital devices. My personal opinion about this is that it is negative. I think it leads to a decrease in quality communication between people, because the digital medium has forced an economy of communication between individuals, which has removed much of the nuance from our communications.
This is particularly detrimental because we must communicate to maintain a society. Society is just the shifting of the burden of living from the individual to the group, and the organization of this shift comes through communicating it with others. Much of our communication in building societies has been in our capability to tell stories to one another, and ourselves, about why we should maintain solidarity with other people. If we are unable to understand each others' stories, then we have no place of departure from which to build new stories about ourselves.
I am very much aware how each change in how we socialize is lauded by the generation leading it and condemned by those generations who have come before for upsetting ‘the balance’ they believe exists. My opinion is that I do not think this is one of these times. The truth is that it may could just as likely be another iteration of this old impulse.
The reason that I think it is different is that the digital differs from the mechanical in the fact that it is not bodily. While you might not understand how an oil derrick works, you do understand how drinking through a straw works, as well as how your elbow operates as a pivot point for your forearm, even if you wouldn’t describe it in this way. This bodily understanding allows you to draw parallels to the observable mechanical world that you cannot with the digital.
There has been a lot of conversation regarding transhumanism bubbling up over the 20th and 21st centuries - the seeking of an opportunity to escape our biology. However, I think our physical bodies are so ‘hard-wired’ (to use a digital term) to our understanding of the world that the digitalification of our selves is only vaguely comprehensible when glimpsing the penumbra of human existence. It is so strange and different as to be incomprehensible to our mechanical selves.
By losing our mechanical understanding of the world we will be losing a contextual understanding of humanity. That is a fact. Whether that matters or not is up to how we choose to constrain and expand the story of humanity, moving forward.