Cover image for High tech/high touch : technology and our search for meaning
High tech/high touch : technology and our search for meaning
Naisbitt, John.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Broadway Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
274 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
T14.5 .N33 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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From John Naisbitt, the preeminent social forecaster of our time and the author of the #1New York TimesbestsellerMegatrends, a remarkable examination of the role technology plays in our accelerated search for meaning. With American culture now being increasingly broadcast through technology--from TV and movies to music to the Internet and electronic games--we are living in what John Naisbitt calls the Technologically Intoxicated Zone. This zone is a confusing and distracted state where we both fear and worship technology, where we see technologies as toys and quick-fixes, and where we become obsessed with what is "real" and what is "fake"--from the violent games children play to genetically-engineered animals to whether one can claim to have scaled Everest if supplemental oxygen was used. It is technology's saturation of American society--with its fabulous innovations and its devastating consequences--that John Naisbitt and his coauthors Nana Naisbitt and Douglas Philips explore in this important and timely book. By conciously examining our relationship with technology as consumers of products, media, and emerging genetic technologies, we can learn to become aware of the impact technology will have on our daily lives, our children, our religiosity, our arts, and our humanness.High Tech/High Touchis a cautionary tale that shows us how to make the most of technology's benefits while minimizing its detrimental effects on our culture. In a compelling tour of our technological immersion as we work and play and search for a spiritual path, Naisbitt tackles complex questions: Does technology free us from constraints of the physical world, or does it tie us down to our machines? Does it save us time in our day-to-day lives, or does it merely create a void we feel compelled to fill with even more tasks and responsibilities? What about advances in biotechnology? Recent developments in genetic engineering now raise the possibility of a future that will someday be free of the birth defects, disabilities, and diseases that mark our lives today. But in an age where such things are possible, what is natural and what is artificial? And when people can be created in the laboratory as easily as in the womb, what, then, does it truly mean to be human? Moving from the information and machine technologies of computers, the Internet, and telecommunications to the genetic technologies that are transforming biological science and art,High Tech/High Touchreveals the emerging power we have over our destinies--and the need for a moral compass to guide us. An ideal book to usher in a century in which these issues will become even more timely,High Tech/High Touchdeftly explores the world we are creating and the world that is to come.

Author Notes

Nana Naisbitt and Douglas Philips, both writers, artists, and entrepreneurs, have worked on projects for Kellogg's, Spiegel, Motorola, Leo Burnett, Shell Oil Company, and the Doblin Group, with an expertise in visualizing corporate communications and business theories in art and story. Nana lives in Chicago, Illinois, and Telluride, Colorado, with her three children. Douglas Philips is a short-story writer and a performance and installation artist who also lives in Chicago and Telluride.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Deploying the content-analysis process he used in Megatrends, Naisbitt and two assistants (one of them his daughter) achieve comparable success in limning our cultural trajectory. Focusing on the effects of technology in reshaping society, the book brings together a mountain of evidence implicating technology in relentlessly accelerating our lives and stirring profound yearnings for a more emotionally satisfying existence. In our craving for emotional authenticity (the "High Touch" of the title), Naisbitt locates the great challenge of our frenetic era. Most of the experts interviewed recognize the potential benefits of technology, yet they also understand the need to recover a human scale for evaluating new computer and medical tools. There are some valuable insights into our technological dilemma here, but the book as a whole reflects the very problem it diagnoses: too much electronically compiled data, too little meaningful integration. Naisbitt deserves credit for stimulating an important discussion, but readers will have to look to other authors to give that discussion coherence and substance. --Bryce Christensen

Publisher's Weekly Review

What do Martha Stewart, genetically cloned sheep and the scandalous Piss Christ artist Andres Serrano have in common? They're all manifestations of "high tech/high touch," an unwieldy concept pulled from Naisbitt's bestselling 1982 Megatrends and here dusted off as a cautionary paradigm for the technologically addled 1990s. Written collaboratively with Naisbitt's daughter, Nana, with additional help from artist Douglas Philips, the book draws on Naisbitt's indefatigable research techniques to spot trends in newspapers, television shows, magazines and the Internet. Naisbitt is concerned with the conundrums that technology has presented to American culture. Children soak up violence from video games like Redneck Rampage, while the specter of eugenics looms over the burgeoning biotech industry. A final section lightens the cautionary tone of much of this book, delivering an eloquent survey of artists who are probing the ethical questions raised by evolving medical practices. Naisbitt sees Americans trapped in what he calls a "Technology Intoxication Zone," and he urges people to unplug their laptops long enough to rediscover the simplicity of starry nights and snowfallsÄand remember what it means to be human. Naisbitt at least raises questions about the effects of technology on culture and the spirit that the authors of The Long Boom (reviewed above) seem to think are a waste of valuable bandwidth. $125,000 ad/promo; 7-city author tour. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Continuing in his well-known "mega" style of analyzing culture, Naisbitt builds upon two themes from previous books: high tech/high touch from Megatrends (LJ 10/1/82) and religious revivalism from Megatrends 2000 (LJ 12/89). Citing numerous examples, Naisbitt illustrates how technology has transformed America into a Technologically Intoxicated Zone. Among the victims of rampant consumer technology are children, recruited by electronic games into a "Military-Nintendo Complex" with insidious consequences such as desensitization to violence. Naisbitt argues that adults have allowed technology to be a self-perpetuating engine, accelerating daily life. The prospects of genetic engineering, eugenics, and cloning make us question our humanity, free will, and privacy rights. A sense of discomfort is a wake-up call to make choices that detoxify our relationship with technology. Naisbitt's name recognition and his millennial topic will make this title popular. Recommended for public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/99.]ÄLaverna Saunders, Salem State Coll. Lib., MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



What is High Tech/High Touch? Because of the intrusive pace of technological change, High Tech/High Touch is far more crucial today than it was in 1982 when John first introduced the idea in the smallest chapter of Megatrends . Echoes of its increasing relevance led Douglas to suggest that John's next book be a reexamination of High Tech/High Touch, now considered by many to be the most important concept of that book. John agreed and welcomed the idea of a high touch collaboration among himself, his daughter Nana, and Douglas, both artists, writers, and entrepreneurs. The first struggle was to come to an agreement about what the terms meant exactly-a task easier said than done, and one that evolved the more we learned. We began by asking, conceptually, what exactly is technology. What is Technology? The changing definition of the word is revealing. In 1967, in the Random House Dictionary , technology was defined as a thing, an object, material and physical and clearly separate from human beings. By 1987, when Random House released its completely updated unabridged dictionary, the word grew to include technology's "interrelation with life, society, and the environment." Technology no longer existed in a vacuum. What is High Tech? Even more revealing is the 1998 Tech Encyclopedia online definition of high technology, which expands the power of technology to include its "consequences." From thing to interrelationship to consequence. We now understand that powerful technologies have powerful consequences. Technology embodies its consequences, both good and bad. It is not neutral. What is high tech? Menu. Mouse, bug, spider. Web, Net. Cookies, vanilla, apple, java, spam. Spew. Pilot, pirate, doctor, director, agent, server, provider, nanny. Chat. Domain, community, home, room, window, mailbox. Access. Boot, footprint. Glove, thumbnail. Navigate, browse, search, scan, zip, go. Location, address. Click. Bulletin board, desktop, briefcase, file, folder, document, notepads, page, bookmark. Smart. Scripting, scrolling, clustering, linking. Save, trash, recycle. Memory. Trojan horse, Orphan Annie, Mae West. Wildcard. Shortcut, overload, shut down. Log, link, surf. Keyboard. Tools, hardware, bits. Engine, backup. Virus. Wired, surge, connected, merge, purge. Crash. Shockwave, flame, ram, hit. Holy War. What is high tech? 3D, HDTV, HTML, HTTP, CD, DVD. MCI, IBM, AOL, Intel, Inspiron, OptiPlax, Omimax, Connectix, Teledesic, Xircon, Inprise. FYI, TBD, IPO, ROI, IT. IV, MRI, EKG. What is high tech? Fire? Wheel, well, spear, loom, printing press, indoor plumbing, electricity, stoves, refrigerators, air conditioning, washers and dryers, cell phones, faxes, organizers, cars, high-speed trains, hydroplanes, bridges, tunnels, skyscrapers, supertankers, Mars Pathfinder, AWACs, JSTARS, space shuttles, particle colliders, nanotechnology, bioengineering, cloning, genetic engineering. What is high tech? Ones and twos. Smaller, cheaper, faster. Real time. Quick time. Virtual, simulated, cyber. Interactive. Digital. Networked. Connected. Hardware. Software. Pixels. Resolution. Bandwidth. Convergence. Killer apps. Tech-cessorize. Voice recognition. Space tourism. What is high tech? Future advancements, innovations, progress-control. What is High Touch? What is high touch? It's the look of an unknown three-year-old girl who turns suddenly to show you her sweet fresh face and flashes a smile that belies her stubborn personality, it's the love of your own child, it's panting for breath because the view was worth the climb, it's wanting to help your father because you notice that bending is now difficult for him, it's listening to the ever-constant rush of a creek, it's forgiving your friend who was mad at you for having a baby before she married, it's smelling a wide bowl of soup, it's longing for a lover, it's feeling god in your throat, it's sitting quietly, it's a lick on your face by a dog you once disliked, it's an idea that tickles your soul, it's a cold wind that burns your face, it's recognizing when you're wrong, it's crying at the beauty of a painting, it's a rhythm that beats in your bones, it's doodling and liking what you've drawn, it's gazing into the eyes of a nursing baby, it's feeling empathy, it's forgoing power to do what's right, it's acknowledging another person's place in this world, it's being respectful of a waitress, it's honoring a mother's depth of understanding, it's honoring a father's steadfastness, it's honoring a child's space to grow without fear, it's delighting in watching a thirteen-year-old boy find his way in a new community, it's giving of oneself to nature, to human emotions, to family, to the universe, to a higher power. High touch is embracing the primeval forces of life and death. High touch is embracing that which acknowledges all that is greater than we. What is High Tech/High Touch? It is a human lens. It is embracing technology that preserves our humanness and rejecting technology that intrudes upon it. It is recognizing that technology is an integral part of the evolution of culture, the creative product of our imaginations, our dreams and aspirations-and that the desire to create new technologies is fundamentally instinctive. But is also recognizing that art, story, play, religion, nature, and time are equal partners in the evolution of technology because they nourish the soul and fulfill its yearnings. It is expressing what it means to be human and employing technology fruitfully in that expression. It's appreciating life and accepting death. It is knowing when we should push back on technology, in our work and our lives, to affirm our humanity. It is understanding that technology zealots are as shortsighted as technology bashers. It is creating significant paths for our lives, without fear of new technology or fear of falling behind it. It is recognizing that at its best, technology supports and improves human life; at its worse, it alienates, isolates, distorts, and destroys. It is questioning what place technology should have in our lives and what place it should have in society. It is consciously choosing to employ technology when it adds value to human lives. It is learning how to live as human beings in a technologically dominated time. It is knowing when simulated experiences add value to human life. It is recognizing when to avoid the layers of distractions and distance technology affords us. It is recognizing when technology is not neutral. It is knowing when to unplug and when to plug in. It is appropriate human scale. High Tech/High Touch is enjoying the fruits of technological advancements and having it truly sit well with our god, our church, or our spiritual beliefs. It is understanding technology through the human lens of play, time, religion, and art. From High Tech to High Touch When does high tech become low tech, and, more dramatically, when does high tech become high touch? High tech becomes high touch with longevity and cultural familiarity. Today a wooden shuttle loom warped with yarn is high touch. Four thousand years ago in Assyria and Egypt, the loom was the latest advancement in technology. The spear, the wheel, the wedge, the pulley were all once high tech. In the 1920s, a radio encased in plastic Bakelite was considered high tech. Today it is high-touch nostalgia. Eight-track players (a '70s technology) are now collectibles, as are phonographs and the accompanying collection of great 45s, LPs, or cassettes. Older technologies become nostalgic more quickly as new technologies are introduced more rapidly. Old-fashioned technologies become reference points for us all. They mark a certain time in our lives, triggering memories. They evoke emotion. High tech has no reference point-yet. High tech holds the hope of an easier life but it does not provoke memory. High-tech consumer goods are only new toys to be explored. They are not yet evocative. The technologies and inventions of the American Industrial Revolution have aged enough now to be considered quaint-no longer obsolete, outdated, old-fashioned, or a symbol of bygone drudgery. Today we romanticize outdated technologies. The imperfections of old technologies-double exposures, sputtering engines, electric shocks-are clearly discernible today, yet the imperfections of today's technologies will be clear only in the face of tomorrow's advancements. Excerpted from High Tech High Touch: Technology and Our Search for Meaning by John Naisbitt, Nana Naisbitt, Douglas Philips All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introduction: our Technologically Intoxicated zonep. 1
What is High Tech[middle dot]High Touch?p. 23
Part 1 Today: Understanding Consumer Technology Through Time and Play
Technology is the currency of our Livesp. 31
The Militory-Nintendo complexp. 65
Part 2 Tomorrow: Understanding Genetic Technology Through Religion and Art
Galileo [right arrow] Darwin [right arrow] Dnap. 11
Death, sex, and the Body: The New specimen Art Movementp. 18
Epiloguep. 22
Appendix A Methodologyp. 23
Appendix B Profiles of Intervieweesp. 24
Acknowledgmentsp. 27