Technology and the Demise of Defense

Ancient humans used whatever they could find to defend themselves from their environment. Clubs, maces, swords, and stone fortresses – they did what they could with technology they invented.

Traditionally, we have used our big brains to imagine and create novel ways to attack and to protect ourselves from each other. This has made our species exceptional in the use of technology as defense.

Ah, modern technology… how I love it!

By “we” I mean me, and by “love” I mean addiction. Why do I love my PC, my smartphone, my tablet computer, my automobile, my television set, and so many other “gadgets” that make life what it is in 21st century America?

To a large extent I think I’ve transferred my affections from the company of flesh and blood humanity to the company of my silicone and plastic devices.

Why and to what effect?

For one thing, having these things connects me with a much larger world – think Facebook, Twitter, and Skype. Certainly such technologies should open a brave new world to me in ways we could not even imagine just 50 years ago – Buck Rogers is SO last century.

How and why could I think of technology in terms of defense?

They’re SAFER, that’s why! No device in my possession has ever attacked me verbally or physically. I suppose I could accuse my device of passive aggressive behavior sometimes (think frozen cursor or blue screen of death). It’s just that in every case, I could always simply turn it off or reset it or get it fixed or replace it. It was always under MY control. I can’t say the same for other humans.

Technology is simply a means by which I can defend myself against perceived threat using new tools – for the same old purpose and reasons. Old wine in new bottles.

Some might say that one beneficial effect of today’s digital lifestyle is the ability to play whatever role one wishes to play – like Sims – and then change that digital self however and whenever one pleases. I think I’d agree with that philosophical viewpoint. It feels safer than face-to-face communication.

When I hide behind my technology persona, “I” can get lost.

“Ah,” you might ask, “am I not already lost in a world of illusion?”

Probably. So, why add another layer atop it? Maybe due to the power of the bandwagon effect – when “everyone is doing it,” I feel somehow safer overall by joining in. Maybe due to my fear of abandonment, I feel safer overall by keeping up with others. Even if I rarely use it, I have a smartphone, a device I could not even imagine just a decade ago.

Instead of using my digital devices as a defense, perhaps…

I might use my technology to assist me to uncover the real “me” – the “I” that underlies every pure, judgment-free perception – the “I” that I’ve protected from all that perceived danger “out there.”

I doubt there is any app available today on any platform that I can use to uncover who I really am. That may be because every app CAN do that for me. The key to discovery is the magic one-word question, “WHY?”

  • Why do I need to carry my smartphone around with me all the time?
  • Why do I need to spend so much time in front of a computer monitor or TV?
  • Why do I now need to depend upon my gadgets for my life?
  • Why do I feel safer with my devices than without them?

Then I could ask the “How” questions.

  • How do I feel when I’ve left my smartphone in the other room (or lost it)?
  • How do I feel when I lose service (internet, cellular, etc.), making my device basically useless?
  • How do I use my device to avoid honest communication with those I care most about?
  • How do I use my devices to protect myself from others?

Some “What/Who” questions might include:

  • What am I avoiding or escaping by using my devices?
  • What pleasure do I derive from using my devices? (and why?)
  • Who would I be without my smartphone?
  • What would I do without my smartphone?
  • What will I do when the power/internet goes out?
  • What can I do now to connect meaningfully with others through my devices?
  • Who am I as a result of the new technologies?

Technology as defense is simply a continuation of an ancient pattern of human behavior – that may stop the moment I embrace gratitude and let go of fear.

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