Background

How Technology Killed Empathy

Uploaded 5/8/2012, approx. 3 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited.

Whatever happened to empathy, where have solidarity, charity and compassion gone?

A series of earth-shattering social, economic and technological trends converged to render empathy a tedious nuisance best avoided.

Foremost among these trends is the emergence of modern technology. Technology had and has a devastating effect on the survival and functioning of core social units such as the community, neighborhood and, most crucially, the family.

With the introduction of modern, fast transportation and telecommunication, it was no longer possible to confine the members of the family to the household, to the village, or even to the neighborhood. The industrial and later information revolutions splintered the classical nuclear family and scattered its members as they outsourced the family's core functions.

Today, feeding, education, and entertainment, which used to be provided by the family, are actually provided by external suppliers. And this process is ongoing. Interactions with the outside world are being minimized. People conduct their lives more and more indoors.

They communicate with other people, their biological and original family included, via telecommunications devices and the Internet. They spend most of their time, work and create the cyber world. Their true and really only home is their website or page on the social network, du jour. Their only reliably permanent address is their email address. Their enduring, albeit as such, friendships are co-chatchers on Facebook. They work from home, flexibly and independently of others. They customize their cultural consumption using 500-channel televisions based on video-on-demand technology.

No two people are watching the same program at the same time. Hermeneutic and mutually exclusive universes will be the end result of this process. People will be linked by very few common experiences within the framework of virtual communities.

They will hold their world with them as they move about. The miniaturization of storage devices will permit people to carry whole libraries of data and entertainment in their suitcase or backpack or even pocket.

They will no longer need or resort to physical interactions.

Consider for instance the issue of screens. Screens have been with us for centuries now. Paintings are screens. Windows are screens. Yet the very nature of screens has undergone a revolutionary transformation in the last two decades or so. All the screens that preceded the PDA's personal digital assistants and the smartphones were inclusive of reality. They were end screens.

Where you watched them, you could not avoid, you could not screen out data emanating from your physical environment. These screens were screen in reality and that was the prevalent modus operandi. So this is the first type of screens. End screens. Screens in reality.

Consider for instance the cinema, television and the personal computer. Even when entangled in the flow of information provided by these machines, you were still fully exposed to and largely aware of your surroundings.

The screens of the past were one step removed. There was always a considerable physical distance between the user and the device and the field of vision extended to encompass copious peripheral input from the environment.

Now consider the iPhone or the digital camera. Their screens are tiny but they monopolize the field of vision and they exclude the world by design. The physical distance between retina and screen has shrunk to the point of energy. 3D television with its specialty eyeglasses and total immersion is merely the culmination of this trend. Their utter removal of reality from the viewer's experience.

Modern screens are therefore aren't screens. You either watch the screen or you observe reality. You cannot do both.

Modern technology allows us to reach out but rarely to really touch. It substitutes kaleidoscopic, brief and shallow interactions for long, meaningful and deep relationships.

Our ability is to empathize and to collaborate with each other unlike muscles. They require frequent exercise.

Gradually we are being denied the opportunity to flex these muscles and thus we empathize less and less. We collaborate more fitfully and inefficiently. We act more narcissistically and anti-socially. Functioning society is rendered atomized and anomic by technology.

Empathy is the foundation of both altruism and collaboration. Thus, while empathy does consume scarce resources, it confers important evolutionary advantages, both from the individual's point of view, cooperation, and from the species' altruism.

Yet we are witnessing a marked decline in both the ubiquity and the utility of empathy. The decline in physical violence is not a good proxy to a supposed rise in empathy. Aggression and narcissism merely mutated into non-physical forms. These are enabled by techn

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the following:

Lonely=Strong? Age of Alone: New Normal

Loneliness and aloneness are becoming increasingly common in today's society, with many people lacking intimate relationships, friends, and even engaging in less sex. This has led to various coping mechanisms, such as busyness, creativity, magical thinking, and engaging in online communities or social media. However, these strategies often fail to provide true fulfillment and can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. The growing trend of loneliness and aloneness is difficult to reverse, as people become entrenched in their ways and develop an ideology around their solitude.


Four Steps: Change Yourself to Change the World (with Assc Direct)

The guest advises people to reestablish meaningful connections with real people to combat the depersonalization and derealization caused by social media. He suggests starting small with five interactions a day and gradually building up. He also advises trusting judiciously and creating a distributed network of trust. Lastly, he recommends discarding beliefs and behaviors that are not truly one's own and focusing on the essence of oneself.


Metaverse as Collective Narcissism, Fantasy, Mental Illness (with Benny Hendel)

The process of virtualization, which began with the transition from agriculture to cities, has led to a retreat from reality and a shift towards simulations. The metaverse, a combination of technologies that provide online simulations, is a more profound form of virtualization that could have significant psychological impacts. Dangers of the metaverse include solipsism, self-sufficiency leading to asocial behavior, and the potential for corporations to own and control reality. However, there are also potential benefits, such as increased efficiency in work and improved accessibility for disabled individuals.


Gender Dysphoria: Real or Social Contagion? (And Detransitioning)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the lack of scientific research on gender dysphoria and the phenomenon of detransitioning. He emphasizes the need for more long-term studies to better understand the experiences of transgender individuals and those who detransition. Vaknin also calls for the transgender community to be more open to diverse voices and experiences, and for the scientific community to take gender dysphoria more seriously and conduct rigorous research on the topic.


Metaverse: Conspiracy or Heaven? (With Divya Thakur)

Summary: In this conversation, Sam Vaknin discusses the concept of the metaverse, its potential impact on society, and the need for regulation to mitigate its negative effects. He highlights concerns about addiction, mental health, climate impact, and labor issues. He emphasizes the importance of grassroots activism, particularly by parents and women, to push for legislative measures to control the metaverse and protect society from its potential harms.


Church of COVID-19 Censors Free Speech

Professor Sam Vaknin claims that YouTube has deleted his videos on COVID-19, despite them containing no conspiracy theories and being thoroughly researched. He suggests that his disagreement with the dogma of universal social distancing may have led to this censorship. Vaknin argues that YouTube's behaviour is dangerous and could lead to the suppression of free speech on other issues. He also questions whether Google's financial interests in the pandemic could be influencing YouTube's actions.


Solitude: Why Are We So Lonely, Alone? (with Benny Hendel)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the increasing trend of people choosing to be alone, with half the adult population in the United States being single or in short-term relationships. He attributes this to factors such as technological self-sufficiency, the hollowing out of family functions, overcrowding, societal collapse, and a preference for being alone when needs are met. Additionally, Vaknin mentions the rise in depression and anxiety rates, which can lead to social isolation. He warns that this trend could lead to social unrest and violence on a global scale.


Warning Young Folks: Silence When We Are All Gone

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses his concerns about the younger generation, noting their lack of emotions, meaningful relationships, and intellectual pursuits. He believes that the focus on action over emotion and cognition is leading to a culture of nihilism and disconnection. Vaknin argues that positive emotions should drive actions, as negative emotions lead to destructive outcomes. He concludes that the current state of the younger generation is a mental suicide, and that a shift in focus towards emotions, cognition, and meaningful connections is necessary for a better future.


Social Media Turn Sinister: We, Orphaned Adolescents, Should Rebel

Professor Sam Vaknin criticizes YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for their censorship and manipulation of content, claiming they are fostering confirmation bias and undermining free speech. He argues that these platforms are monopolies that should be regulated and broken up. Vaknin also accuses social media platforms of infantilizing users and promoting narcissism, while suppressing dissenting voices. He warns that the suppression of free speech could lead to violence and calls for peaceful resistance against social media platforms.


Metaverse Sex and Gender: Sex Bots and AI (Artificial Intelligence)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the future of sex and relationships, which he believes will be dominated by artificial intelligence and virtual reality. He presents two examples of ethical dilemmas that arise from this new normal, including the question of whether a woman using a haptic dildo is really a man and whether having sex with an artificial intelligence robot is cheating on a partner. Vaknin argues that these issues challenge the very fabric of reality and society's organization by gender and sex, and that we are poorly equipped to cope with the Blade Runner era that is fast approaching.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2024, under license to William DeGraaf
Website Copyright © William DeGraaf 2022-2024
Get it on Google Play
Privacy policy