Friday evening I sat on a panel with Professors Sherry Turkle and Nick Tyler (chaired by Prof John Naughton) at the British Library. The question we’ve been asked to consider is whether or not we are too intertwined with technology.

Given the conversation I had with Prof Turkle on Wednesday night at the RSA, I anticipated she would say that we are too intertwined. Indeed, her latest book, Alone Together is an exceptional volte face of her previous theoretical position on the subject. I look forward to the debate.

Here’s my five minutes of preamble:

Are we too intertwined with technology?

The short answer is: Yes. But not how you might think.

I believe that we have inextricably interwoven technology into our lives and that this is facilitating exceptional opportunities for human social evolution: we now have the opportunities to meet new people, collaborate across distances, and achieve real outcomes on a scale and at such speed as has never been witnessed before. Web technology is ushering in a social evolution like other technologies before it: the domestic technologies that released women from the confines from the home, the medical technologies that have extended our lives and our health, the communications technologies that have amplified voices of people who were previously unheard.

These are, of course, positive evolutions.

But with the new web technologies that we hold in our hands and on our laps, that keep us connected to a world of information at our fingertips at every moment, we are in danger of reducing our world views.

We have the greatest archive of knowledge at our disposal. But we are not machines: we cannot parse it, make sense of it, synthesise it. We are physiologically incapable of rendering it useful in a meaningful way. And yet every day, more is produced.

And so we rely upon social heuristics to determine what it is that we should pay attention to.

We have done this as human beings throughout history: our neurological systems are built to filter out noise and to help us make unconscious decisions. Our psychologies similarly generate filters, based on who we are: a consolidation of who we are now based on who we have been and who we wish to be.

We are motivated to confirm our beliefs, generating a greater sense of who we are within the social world. This serves us well in helping us make sense of the madness that surrounds us.

The new wave of web technologies explicitly encourages us to articulate who’s part of our gang, and who isn’t. We follow on Twitter people who we know, like, or wish to be seen to be like. These people reflect aspects of our selves and produce a flow of information that makes us feel like we belong, like we have a group, and we have a cornerstone for our identities.

Here’s the thing, though: every time we get a good recommendation from Amazon, a little piece of diversity dies.

The new technologies filter OUT the other, disconfirmatory beliefs and the randomness that comes from stumbling across something unexpected. The greatest potential serendipity machine is in fact, as Eli Pariser writes, a Filter Bubble.

Yet we are entangled because the machines give us what we want. This is a commercially-driven motivation based upon technology development that reduces us to databases of behaviours and intentions.

The more we rely upon the machine to dictate what we should and should not attend to, the greater our personal responsibility is in reaching out from the machine to connect with people and ideas we don’t agree with. Otherwise, we become automotons exactly like them.