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:

Beware the Stupid Takeover! (Sam Vaknin Rant, Read PINNED COMMENT)

Professor Sam Vaknin argues that stupidity is taking over the world, with technology empowering mediocre individuals and fostering a self-delusion of malignant egalitarianism. He believes that the rise of stupidity is due to a reverse Flynn effect, where average IQ scores have declined, and the tolerance and legitimization of stupidity in society. Vaknin also criticizes the democratic ideal and the influence of technology, which has allowed stupidity to spread like a viral pandemic, overwhelming systems of governance and decision-making.

How We Ended Up in This Mess (Documentary Excerpt)

The Enlightenment project has failed due to the metastasis of its core values, leading to malignant individualism, malignant egalitarianism, malignant tolerance, and malignant reasoning. Malignant individualism has resulted in the breakdown of institutions and increased alienation, while malignant egalitarianism has led to destructive envy and the rise of narcissism. Malignant tolerance has given way to moral relativism, political correctness, and the erosion of academic rigor. Lastly, malignant reasoning has prioritized ideas and concepts over people, leading to the rise of pseudosciences and the confusion between technology, science, and civilization.

Mythbusting the Human Mind, Condition (Starts 18:18 with Isabella Wang )

The text is a conversation between two individuals discussing various topics, including the role of technology, the state of humanity, and the impact of transitions on society. They touch on the lack of consensus in modern transitions and the need for collaboration to ensure a better future. The conversation delves into the impact of consumerism and the shift towards a death cult, emphasizing the need to prioritize life and nature. The discussion also highlights the challenges of modern society and the potential consequences of celebrating death.

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.

Stupid Narcissists Rule the World

The rise of technology and the democratization of knowledge have led to an increase in the number of stupid and narcissistic people in society. The democratic ideal of one person, one vote has allowed the unqualified and ignorant to interfere with the proper functioning of every system. The collapse of the education system has led to illiterate and irrational graduates. The advent of radio, television, and the internet has given stupid people unmitigated access to technology, allowing them to pollute the airwaves and contaminate the broadband with their inferior analytic capacity, low brow output, trivial observations, monosyllabic exclamations, and hairbrained queries.

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.

Addiction: Everything We Know Is Wrong! (EXCERPT with Conor Ryan, Eyes Wide Open Podcast)

Professor Sam Vaknin discusses addiction, arguing that rehab centers are ineffective and that addiction is a choice influenced by the environment. He suggests that addiction may have positive aspects and that society encourages addiction through consumerism and other incentives. Vaknin also addresses the impact of pornography on society and the potential challenges of banning it. He emphasizes the need for comprehensive sex education as a potential solution.

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.

Stupidity And Weakness As Narcissism

Weakness and stupidity can lead to narcissism and are often the result of overthinking and misusing critical thinking. Overanalyzing can be counterproductive and lead to irrational behavior. The rise of technology and social media has empowered the weak and stupid, leading to a decline in intellectual discourse and the spread of misinformation. This trend threatens the survival of humanity, as the masses become more susceptible to the influence of the weak and ignorant.

Debunking the Human Mind, Condition (with Isabella Wang, EXCERPTS)

The text is a conversation between two individuals discussing various topics, including the role of technology, the impact of transitions in human history, and the challenges of reaching a consensus in society. They also touch on the concept of consciousness and the impact of consumerism on nature and human relationships. The conversation ends with a toast to the last sip of wine.

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