Bloggers and reporters who write about social media have often been accused of overstating its importance relative to other things like food, water, and shelter. But the widespread angst provoked by Facebook’s somewhat-lackluster initial public offering confirms that we were right all along: Facebook is at least as important as all of human civilization, if not more so.
“If even Facebook can’t have a pop at the open, then should we have faith overall in technology?” This was the plaintive question posed by an analyst on CNBC, reflecting the fundamental existential and teleological crisis opening up before us as Facebook’s shares hover around their opening price. And a profound question it is, indeed worthy of repeating: “Should we have faith overall in technology?” (emphasis added).
One isn’t necessarily used to hearing such probing metaphysical investigations launched on CNBC, which is usually known more for its financial reporting and business information. But I’ve always said we should follow the path to wisdom wherever it may originate: out of the mouths of babes and TV pundits, etc.
So should we have faith, overall, in technology? On one hand, some might call it impudent to challenge the entire record of human endeavor, beginning tens of thousands of years ago on the African savannah, just on the basis of a weak IPO. Other historical developments might be judged more important, including the greatly-extended average lifespan and vastly-improved material circumstances of most human beings compared to our progenitors in the ancestral environment. True, there have been some setbacks -- the Dark Ages, the world wars, Jersey Shore -- but in the end we have always rallied and returned to the path of progress.
But taking another point of view, is it possible that our gradual but consistent adoption of technology has, over time, rendered us so dependent we can no longer see beyond a worldview that is fundamentally framed by technology? Has our wholehearted embrace of technology -- which leads some cultural theorists to call us “cyborgs” -- in some way blinded us to our own essential humanity? Perhaps our ancestors, as miserable as their material circumstances were, were more truly and authentically human than us. But then you have to consider that the ability to invent and use technology is viewed by many as an intrinsic, integral part of being human…
Oh wait, it’s back up to $42. Never mind!