High Tech/High Touch: Technology and our Search for Meaning

High Tech/High Touch: Technology and our Search for Meaning

by John Naisbitt, Nana Naisbitt, Douglas Philips

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It is technology's saturation of American society - with its fabulous innovations and its devastating consequences - that John Naisbitt and his coauthors Nana Naisbitt and Douglas Philips explore in this book. By conciously examining our relationship with technology as consumers of products, media, and emerging genetic technologies, we can learn to become aware of…  See more details below


It is technology's saturation of American society - with its fabulous innovations and its devastating consequences - that John Naisbitt and his coauthors Nana Naisbitt and Douglas Philips explore in this book. By conciously examining our relationship with technology as consumers of products, media, and emerging genetic technologies, we can learn to become aware of the impact technology will have on our daily lives, our children, our religiosity, our arts, and our humanness. High Tech - High Touch is a cautionary tale that shows us how to make the most of technology's benefits while minimizing its detrimental effects on our culture.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
What do Martha Stewart, genetically cloned sheep and the scandalous Piss Christ artist Andres Serrano have in common? They're all manifestations of "high tech/high touch," an unwieldy concept pulled from Naisbitt's bestselling 1982 Megatrends and here dusted off as a cautionary paradigm for the technologically addled 1990s. Written collaboratively with Naisbitt's daughter, Nana, with additional help from artist Douglas Philips, the book draws on Naisbitt's indefatigable research techniques to spot trends in newspapers, television shows, magazines and the Internet. Naisbitt is concerned with the conundrums that technology has presented to American culture. Children soak up violence from video games like Redneck Rampage, while the specter of eugenics looms over the burgeoning biotech industry. A final section lightens the cautionary tone of much of this book, delivering an eloquent survey of artists who are probing the ethical questions raised by evolving medical practices. Naisbitt sees Americans trapped in what he calls a "Technology Intoxication Zone," and he urges people to unplug their laptops long enough to rediscover the simplicity of starry nights and snowfalls--and remember what it means to be human. Naisbitt at least raises questions about the effects of technology on culture and the spirit that the authors of The Long Boom (reviewed above) seem to think are a waste of valuable bandwidth. $125,000 ad/promo; 7-city author tour. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal - Library Journal
Continuing in his well-known "mega" style of analyzing culture, Naisbitt builds upon two themes from previous books: high tech/high touch from Megatrends (LJ 10/1/82) and religious revivalism from Megatrends 2000 (LJ 12/89). Citing numerous examples, Naisbitt illustrates how technology has transformed America into a Technologically Intoxicated Zone. Among the victims of rampant consumer technology are children, recruited by electronic games into a "Military-Nintendo Complex" with insidious consequences such as desensitization to violence. Naisbitt argues that adults have allowed technology to be a self-perpetuating engine, accelerating daily life. The prospects of genetic engineering, eugenics, and cloning make us question our humanity, free will, and privacy rights. A sense of discomfort is a wake-up call to make choices that detoxify our relationship with technology. Naisbitt's name recognition and his millennial topic will make this title popular. Recommended for public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/99.]--Laverna Saunders, Salem State Coll. Lib., MA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Super trend spotter and premier historian of future events Naisbitt (Megatrends, 1982, etc.) and his co-authors (his daughter and artist Philips) examine trends in nascent technology and find much portentous material. They prescribe "high touch" (as in New Age touchy-feely) to counter foreboding high tech. Sixty-nine years ago a little gem called Whither, Whither, Or After Sex, What? was published. Naisbitt and his colleagues have similar concerns, expressed with equal alarm but much more serious mien. They have assiduously surveyed the current scene from the Human Genome Project to the Littleton school massacre. Statistics abound. They have interviewed at least fourscore experts, from the archbishop of the Eastern Province of the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, Diocese of the Potomac, to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf. America has entered a "technology intoxication zone," they say. We worship technology, love it as a toy. We can't distinguish real from fake. We accept violence, live distracted lives, and use religion as a quick fix. Technology is the currency of our lives, and we look to Martha Stewart to buck the trend. The computer games used by the military to train warriors are exactly the ones played by the nation's children. "I think it's scary," says Gen. Schwarzkopf. Violence in the media is pervasive and becoming hard-wired in our youth. From thoughts of technoviolence, the survey turns to biotech. We can have sex, of course, without having children and have children without having sex. After sex, what? It may be genetic engineering of people as well as food. How that notion affects religion is given appropriate weight before the authors turn to what theycall "Specimen Art." That is the more or less artistic display of specimens like DNA, body fluids, innards, pickled pigs, and human cadavers. It's becoming popular, and Naisbitt seems well pleased with this particular trend. It shows the essential unity of creation, he says. Eye-opening and not a little frightening, Naisbitt's passing parade prompts discussion. Whither, indeed! ($125,000 ad/promo; author tour; radio satellite tour)

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Product Details

Broadway Books
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6.39(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.02(d)

Read an Excerpt

What is High Tech/High Touch?

Because of the intrusive pace of technological change, High Tech/High Touch is far more crucial today than it was in 1982 when John first introduced the idea in the smallest chapter of Megatrends. Echoes of its increasing relevance led Douglas to suggest that John's next book be a reexamination of High Tech/High Touch, now considered by many to be the most important concept of that book. John agreed and welcomed the idea of a high touch collaboration among himself, his daughter Nana, and Douglas, both artists, writers, and entrepreneurs.

The first struggle was to come to an agreement about what the terms meant exactly-a task easier said than done, and one that evolved the more we learned. We began by asking, conceptually, what exactly is technology.

What is Technology?

The changing definition of the word is revealing. In 1967, in the Random House Dictionary, technology was defined as a thing, an object, material and physical and clearly separate from human beings. By 1987, when Random House released its completely updated unabridged dictionary, the word grew to include technology's "interrelation with life, society, and the environment." Technology no longer existed in a vacuum.

What is High Tech?

Even more revealing is the 1998 Tech Encyclopedia online definition of high technology, which expands the power of technology to include its "consequences." From thing to interrelationship to consequence. We now understand that powerful technologies have powerful consequences. Technology embodies its consequences, both good and bad. It is not neutral.

What is high tech?Menu. Mouse, bug, spider. Web, Net. Cookies, vanilla, apple, java, spam. Spew. Pilot, pirate, doctor, director, agent, server, provider, nanny. Chat. Domain, community, home, room, window, mailbox. Access. Boot, footprint. Glove, thumbnail. Navigate, browse, search, scan, zip, go. Location, address. Click. Bulletin board, desktop, briefcase, file, folder, document, notepads, page, bookmark. Smart. Scripting, scrolling, clustering, linking. Save, trash, recycle. Memory. Trojan horse, Orphan Annie, Mae West. Wildcard. Shortcut, overload, shut down. Log, link, surf. Keyboard. Tools, hardware, bits. Engine, backup. Virus. Wired, surge, connected, merge, purge. Crash. Shockwave, flame, ram, hit. Holy War.

What is high tech? www.technology.com. 3D, HDTV, HTML, HTTP, CD, DVD. MCI, IBM, AOL, Intel, Inspiron, OptiPlax, Omimax, Connectix, Teledesic, Xircon, Inprise. FYI, TBD, IPO, ROI, IT. IV, MRI, EKG.

What is high tech? Fire? Wheel, well, spear, loom, printing press, indoor plumbing, electricity, stoves, refrigerators, air conditioning, washers and dryers, cell phones, faxes, organizers, cars, high-speed trains, hydroplanes, bridges, tunnels, skyscrapers, supertankers, Mars Pathfinder, AWACs, JSTARS, space shuttles, particle colliders, nanotechnology, bioengineering, cloning, genetic engineering.

What is high tech? Ones and twos. Smaller, cheaper, faster. Real time. Quick time. Virtual, simulated, cyber. Interactive. Digital. Networked. Connected. Hardware. Software. Pixels. Resolution. Bandwidth. Convergence. Killer apps. Tech-cessorize. Voice recognition. Space tourism.

What is high tech? Future advancements, innovations, progress-control.

What is High Touch?

What is high touch? It's the look of an unknown three-year-old girl who turns suddenly to show you her sweet fresh face and flashes a smile that belies her stubborn personality, it's the love of your own child, it's panting for breath because the view was worth the climb, it's wanting to help your father because you notice that bending is now difficult for him, it's listening to the ever-constant rush of a creek, it's forgiving your friend who was mad at you for having a baby before she married, it's smelling a wide bowl of soup, it's longing for a lover, it's feeling god in your throat, it's sitting quietly, it's a lick on your face by a dog you once disliked, it's an idea that tickles your soul, it's a cold wind that burns your face, it's recognizing when you're wrong, it's crying at the beauty of a painting, it's a rhythm that beats in your bones, it's doodling and liking what you've drawn, it's gazing into the eyes of a nursing baby, it's feeling empathy, it's forgoing power to do what's right, it's acknowledging another person's place in this world, it's being respectful of a waitress, it's honoring a mother's depth of understanding, it's honoring a father's steadfastness, it's honoring a child's space to grow without fear, it's delighting in watching a thirteen-year-old boy find his way in a new community, it's giving of oneself to nature, to human emotions, to family, to the universe, to a higher power. High touch is embracing the primeval forces of life and death. High touch is embracing that which acknowledges all that is greater than we.

What is High Tech/High Touch?

It is a human lens.

It is embracing technology that preserves our humanness and rejecting technology that intrudes upon it. It is recognizing that technology is an integral part of the evolution of culture, the creative product of our imaginations, our dreams and aspirations-and that the desire to create new technologies is fundamentally instinctive. But is also recognizing that art, story, play, religion, nature, and time are equal partners in the evolution of technology because they nourish the soul and fulfill its yearnings. It is expressing what it means to be human and employing technology fruitfully in that expression. It's appreciating life and accepting death. It is knowing when we should push back on technology, in our work and our lives, to affirm our humanity. It is understanding that technology zealots are as shortsighted as technology bashers. It is creating significant paths for our lives, without fear of new technology or fear of falling behind it. It is recognizing that at its best, technology supports and improves human life; at its worse, it alienates, isolates, distorts, and destroys. It is questioning what place technology should have in our lives and what place it should have in society. It is consciously choosing to employ technology when it adds value to human lives. It is learning how to live as human beings in a technologically dominated time. It is knowing when simulated experiences add value to human life. It is recognizing when to avoid the layers of distractions and distance technology affords us. It is recognizing when technology is not neutral. It is knowing when to unplug and when to plug in. It is appropriate human scale.

High Tech/High Touch is enjoying the fruits of technological advancements and having it truly sit well with our god, our church, or our spiritual beliefs. It is understanding technology through the human lens of play, time, religion, and art.

From High Tech to High Touch

When does high tech become low tech, and, more dramatically, when does high tech become high touch? High tech becomes high touch with longevity and cultural familiarity. Today a wooden shuttle loom warped with yarn is high touch. Four thousand years ago in Assyria and Egypt, the loom was the latest advancement in technology. The spear, the wheel, the wedge, the pulley were all once high tech. In the 1920s, a radio encased in plastic Bakelite was considered high tech. Today it is high-touch nostalgia. Eight-track players (a '70s technology) are now collectibles, as are phonographs and the accompanying collection of great 45s, LPs, or cassettes. Older technologies become nostalgic more quickly as new technologies are introduced more rapidly.

Old-fashioned technologies become reference points for us all. They mark a certain time in our lives, triggering memories. They evoke emotion. High tech has no reference point-yet. High tech holds the hope of an easier life but it does not provoke memory. High-tech consumer goods are only new toys to be explored. They are not yet evocative. The technologies and inventions of the American Industrial Revolution have aged enough now to be considered quaint-no longer obsolete, outdated, old-fashioned, or a symbol of bygone drudgery. Today we romanticize outdated technologies.

The imperfections of old technologies-double exposures, sputtering engines, electric shocks-are clearly discernible today, yet the imperfections of today's technologies will be clear only in the face of tomorrow's advancements.

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