Re-contracting our embrace of technologies

A People’s History of Tech Interview

“My son’s nine. There’s some kids who already have cell phones in his class, there are kids that don’t. There’s a way that in that context in particular, it feels like kind of already out of control despite a lot of people’s best efforts not to. And the socioeconomic context of that is complicated. He has a super socioeconomically mixed class. And it’s the lower income kids that have phones, and then all the upper income kids don’t. But upper income parents–including me–are like, ‘should we contract with each other not to have phones at all?’ But that’s already a fraught thing.

My son has a friend who is in the projects near the school and has single mom, and she’s working night shifts a lot. He’s basically at home with his phone most nights. That is the situation that it is and certainly if he didn’t have a phone it just could be difficult in a different way. So it’s really complicated.

At the same time I look at that I’m like, there has to be a way that we can all help each other through. The idea that, ‘Oh, well, I guess we’ve all just got to like make our individual choices and accept whatever is the lowest common denominator’ also feels like an unsatisfactory capitulation. I don’t know the answer, but how do we re-contract with each other around how we want to embrace or not embrace technologies is to me the thing that we have to figure out.

These new technologies come along, and they fill needs that aren’t being met in other ways. And then to just say, ‘Let’s roll them back, or let’s not have them,’ without actually addressing the broader social context, we end up in a not good place.”

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