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Thu, Jan 13, 2000 - Page 2 News List

US trend-watcher warns of technology's ill effects

BOOK PROMOTION A visiting US author says that Taiwan must accept there is a negative side to the technological revolution in addition to the benefits that it brings

By Erin Prelypchan  /  STAFF REPORTER

John and Nana Naisbitt at a press conference announcing the release of the Chinese version of their new book, in Taipei, yesterday.


Society needs to examine its enthusiasm for technology as it prepares for the 21st century, US trend guru John Naisbitt, who is currently on a visit to Taiwan, said yesterday.

"In our rush of excitement for new technologies and all that they promise ... I worry that we are in danger of losing something," said Naisbitt, author of the New York Times bestseller Megatrends, during a meeting with Taiwan's business and education leaders yesterday. Technology is changing relationships between people and our concept of what it means to be human, he said.

Naisbitt's daughter and collaborator on the new book High Tech, High Touch, agreed.

"We once thought of technology as a tool. Now we see that it embodies its own consequences, both good and bad. It is not neutral," said Nana Naisbitt.

Biotechnology and telecommunications are prime examples of the powerful possibilities for both good and bad, the Naisbitts said.

Genetic engineering makes possible both Hitler's dream of eugenics and the possibility to eradicate inherited diseases -- allowing humans to determine the course of our own evolution, he said.

"Galileo changed the views of man's role in the universe ... Darwin changed the views of man's role in nature, and the genome project changes our knowledge of the human body itself. We have to ask ourselves: `Are we ready for this?'" Nana Naisbitt said.

Advanced telecommunications and the Internet create increasing social isolation as time spent with machines dominates our lives, they said. At the same time, they shrink distances between loved ones and strangers who live far away.

The social consequences of these rapid changes, John Naisbitt says, are left largely unexamined.

"How many of you have ever asked what your relationship is to technology? It's a question we should be asking, not only as individuals but as a society," John Naisbitt said to yesterday's forum, which included Acer founder Stan Shih (施振榮) and media personality Sisy Chen (陳文茜).

The Naisbitts insist that they are not technophobes.

"We both use technology extensively ... but we ask `What effect will this have on my human life?' before adopting it," Nana Naisbitt said.

Here in Taiwan, the public is perhaps more eager to embrace new ideas than elsewhere in the world, said Academia Sinica sociology fellow Michael Hsiao (蕭新煌), who is also a national policy advisor to the president.

"Taiwanese people tend to embrace new technology a little too willingly," he said.

Although the saturation of new technologies may not be as high as in the developed world, it is growing rapidly and has radically affected Taiwan in a short period of time, he said.

"We haven't seen a lot of the effects yet, but we definitely have to examine where we're going," he said, pointing to the prevalence of pornography on the Internet as one of the most visible effects so far.

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