I was having a conversation with a psych friend of my Mother's on the occasion of her 92nd birthday (my Mother's, not the friend's). I was telling her of my current vocation, when I saw the familiar dread overtake her face and I therefore began the hopeless struggle to defend myself and my work-related activities, by explaining that interactive voice response (aka self service) systems could actually decrease the amount of time that you spend accomplishing routine tasks (i.e. balance and payment) by preventing you from having to enter a lengthy queue to wait for the increasingly valuable time of a human to intervene on your behalf. She of course, just wanted to know what she needed to press or say (or not say) to get to that ever more illusive human presence. I tried in vain to inform that the systems are only as good as the developers who implement them, but naturally, no one cared, I might as well have been a bailout recipient at that point.
Fortunately, the conversation evolved into the effect that technology has on communication, and I put forth the premise that faster, more efficient, more direct interaction (whether it's texting, internet/cellular voice, or email) could only have a positive impact on communication, because by definition, it increased the amount of information being successfully exchanged within any sampled time period. This is where the conversation got interesting, as she posited that the speed and increased influx of information and facts decreased creativity of expression because there's no time left to digest and form intellectually meaningful thoughts and ideas that lead to a higher level of expression.
This sounded to me like communication elitism, and I continued with the point that technology has brought communication parity to the masses (well, really those that can afford a device - so the "masses" in this case are delimited on the low end by the lower middle class - whatever that means) but she pressed forth stating the detriment to quality of communication, and the effect on children of "skipping" a previous cultural activity - namely reading and writing, and substituting text messages made up of word fragments, which is an assault on the language(!). Again, I spoke of the the inherent democracy of the internet, and the countless educational opportunities that it provides (given access to access) without regard to economic class...someone interrupted, and the conversation became stale. But the thought carried with me - is technology enhancing creativity, or stifling it? By degree, it could be one or the other, or both in different contexts, of course, and who knows what studies will come to inflate one position over the other. I suppose it's important to know what the effect of the rabbit hole may be as you're falling down it, even if your fall is inevitable.
That's why my interest was piqued when I saw this article in Newsweek posing the question of whether the internet changes the way we think, which is the annual question at The Edge. The last paragraph of the article talks George Dyson's premise that is basically the same as the idea that my Mother's friend was expressing, the idea that technology is altering creativity by "removing or ignoring unnecessary information to reveal the shape of knowledge hidden within" thereby resulting in "Creativity by destruction rather than assembly"...