Culture and Society

Does technology connect us to the world or isolate us from reality?
Answered by Alex Sandy Pentland
  • Alex Sandy Pentland

    Alex Sandy Pentland

  1. Alex Sandy Pentland Director, MIT Human Dynamics Laboratory


    Well, actually, what I think I described was one leveraging the other. Social media gained a lot of its power through the more traditional, face-to-face, normal sort of human relationships -- the older ones. That leverages things and allows serendipity to happen and so forth. But by itself, it's not very powerful -- at least, that's what the evidence is so far. Now that may change. They may come up with better ways to do that. But I haven't seen it yet.

    So the always on, always connected part is disturbing in one way, because while exchanging ideas by being in touch with people is a key way to be more productive and be more creative, it's also the case that the need to reflect about things -- to let things sort of settle in your brain -- is a fairly well-established principle. So you need to have times when you're thinking about things in the shower, when there's sort of quiet times, when the back of your brain integrates things. That's actually where an awful lot of our creativity comes from.

    So if you have a life that has the rich relationships -- they can be intermittent, only every once in a while -- leveraged with all of the social media, the electronic media, but there's also time for reflection and pause, that's actually not a bad mix.

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