Technology has mightily raised the spectre of trust. For example, back in the day, promiscuity often took a non-trivial amount of planning. That was certainly the case if one really did not want to get caught. I mean back in the day (say a mere 15 years ago), a sexual affair required quite a bit of planning just so that the two people wanting to have the sexual affair could end up in the same room by themselves; and, moreover, so that they could have sufficient time to themselves. Thus, in a very odd way, there was not as much trust needed back then, precisely because it was often easy enough not to have the sexual affair than take the risk of getting caught.
Of course, I understand that people did have affairs back then. For as the saying goes, where there is will there is a way. But that truth does not defeat the reality that affairs back then required some serious planning along with some very subtle moves. For instance, he happens to be late just often enough in leaving the office; and she just so happens to be in the lobby time and time again when he got off the elevator. That confluence of circumstances allowed for a casual conversation to get started. In turn, a few casual conversations allowed for them to arrange a meeting elsewhere. And so on. But this all could easily have taken a few weeks.
Nowadays, of course, a few text messages can easily enough get an affair off the ground. So for all the talk about trust in marriage, the profound reality is that, by comparison to nowadays, married folks of yesteryear had sufficiently less to worry about.
And if the preceding remarks are not disturbing enough, there is the simple truth that nowadays all a spouse needs to do is buy a cell phone that has no contract; and then she or he is in the position to pursue a life of infidelity.
We get something analogous with students. I use a serve called PollEverwhere.Com to take attendance. Students simply text in their name to the service. But guess what? It happens just often enough that a student who will be absent will give her or his cell phone to student who will be present can text in the name of the student who is absent. And as we all know, technology mightily facilitates cheating in college.
Needless to say, the more sophisticated technology becomes, the more it will facilitate dishonest behavior. Either that, or the more we will be required to take steps to insure that there is no dishonesty. But in either case, it looks as if trust itself is taking a major nose-dive. And that is a most disconcerting problem.
Humanity as we know it will be destroyed if in point fact trust is rendered otiose. Essentially every human relationship will change for the worse if trust is destroyed. The marriage relationship will change for the worse. Friendship will change for the worse. The student-teacher relationship will change for the worse. And so on.
It is this reality about the diminution of trust owing to technology that folks like Raymond Kurzweil have refused to take into account. People like him focus upon what people can do as a result of technology. But human beings are defined not only by the things that they do but also by the way in which they do them, and trust is an irreplaceable excellence. As a professor, I can say without hesitation that the richness of my life as a professor has been majestically underwritten by the trust that sufficiently many students have had in me. There is an ineffable richness that comes with trust and only with trust. Some might say that a richness of that sort comes about only with love. Well, to that observation I simply add that love without trust is utterly vapid.
I would give up technology in a moment’s notice in order to sustain the trust that I have developed with friends. And among the things I am ever so determined to do is being the worthy of the trust of others. But it is becoming increasingly obvious that we who are human are becoming so besotted with our gadgets that we deem trust irrelevant. If, from an evolutionary perspective, it is true that either we use a skill or lose it, then humanity, as we know it, is in big trouble.
© 2013 Laurence Thomas