Aspen Ideas Festival: The social downside to technology

Social studies professor Sherry Turkle at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
Social studies professor Sherry Turkle at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
Ian Wagreich | Aspen Ideas Festival

Sherry Turkle has been studying the impact of technology on our society since the beginning of personal computers.

The MIT professor gleaned that technology had a simple goal: "That which had friction will become friction-free."

For instance, electronic transactions would be easier.

"The goal was to maximize and even eliminate social friction," she said.

This is to the detriment of society. It's in that friction, Turkle believes that society can grow and change.

Things don't always have to be easy, the first few minutes of conversation after meeting someone for the first time can be awkward.

However, Turkle points out those are the "building blocks of empathy."

"But who says a life without conflict ... is the good life?" Turkle said many of her research subjects would rather sit behind a screen or on a phone than have a conversation face to face.

Face-to-face conversations, she said, are "where intimacy grows, it's where empathy develops, it fosters productivity, engagement, and clarity and collaboration."

Turkle was interviewed by Pete Dominick, the host of "Stand Up with Pete Dominick."

To hear more, use the audio player above.

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