The more things stay the same, the more they change
November 21, 2008 sociologyI have to take a little bit of issue with something John Scalzi said over on his AMC column and expanded on at Whatever. I'll agree that technology doesn't change people, but I think that people - and societies - change over time. It is relatively easy, when reviewing historical thought, to see where emergent concepts and ideas literally changed people's ideas of what was possible. For example, the telelogical framework about society so predominant throughout the modern age have weakened in the evolutionary postmodern day. Our concept of children and adolescents is radically different than the concepts of only 150 years ago. Our ideas of marriage, women, and race are hugely different.
Different people (or different societies) today hold some fundamentally different ideas from one another; there is no reason that should be possible spatially but not temporally.
Under all of that sociological stuff, yes, there is still the same meat - but that "same meat" also produces all the variety of the world and viewpoints today. You are a human animal - but you are also shaped by the society you are in. I don't adhere to the idea that societies are inherently progressing towards an endpoint - but they do change.
A modern child, transported to an older period of time and raised there, would still have the tendencies from biology. However, even from a strict sociobiological view, the dialectic of societal and environmental influences and an organism creates physical change in a developing organism. (i.e. your experiences literally change you.) Therefore, that child would not be guaranteed to have anything like the same temperment, outlook, or values that they do today. It's kind of hubristic to think otherwise.
Again, I agree that technology doesn't *cause* that change. Sometimes technology facilitates that change, and makes it easier and more rapid. That rate of change is the biggest way that technology effects society these days. But mostly it's a correlation of change, not a causative agent.
(If intrigued or unsure of what I mean, the comment I left there is a completely different version of the same thing.)