Thoughts on Alone Together by Sherry Turkle

A book that gives us time to reflect on solitude, intimacy, privacy, empathy and human relationships in a digital age of simulations, connectivity, and multi-tasking.

One central theme of the book is solitude, the time and space to think about who we are and how we have grown. The author describes childhood experiences when her mother would pick a photo from a big drawer and tell the story of the photo, each time finding a new surprise. She also keeps the letters that they had sent to each other while she was away for college, and each correspondence was a long dialogue about their lives.

When we encounter machines that pretend to understand and care for us (social robots with as-if emotions), organize information and memories for us (intelligent personal assistants), or remove ourselves from the responsibilities of our lives (virtual worlds and avatars), along with technology that allows us to practice the habit of quickly connecting and disconnecting socially and psychologically (personal electronic devices), where do we want to live and how do we want to live? How do we make room for self-reflection?

However, there is always a sense of optimism and hope. We do realize our unique situations and our desire for human relationships. Children and elderly asked for people to care for them (despite acknowledging the potential low quality of human care), as well as assistive technologies that would enhance our abilities and strengths to live independently.

There is a time. We are only in the beginning.

Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash

I read, write, and reflect on human lives. Previously HCI Researcher @ Lancaster, UCL, and St Andrews. Website: https://chijuiwu.space/

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