The abstraction of experience through technological filters is a concern that first captured the public imagination with Marshall McLuhan’s book, Understanding Media. As the prophecies captured by that book continue to unfold at an ever-increasing pace, it’s useful to consider 3 factors - purity, specialization, and expertness - and one example - how we educate ourselves - that inform us of how excessive abstraction can erode our direct experience of the world.
The first factor, purity, is not the central focus of French economist Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-first Century. But Piketty illustrates the pitfalls of purity powerfully when he says that divorcing economics from politics by considering the former to be “pure science” ends up turning both politics and economics into folly. Economics, of course, is not the only place purity seeks to dominate: it's part and parcel of most religious and spiritual practice. In that environment, it often binds adherents to the dictates of the puritan meta-narrative. Purity is never achievable, but genuine advancement is - and the latter would be much more straightforward if the former would get out of its' way.
Specialization is a factor that has captured the concern of philosophers for centuries, from Leonardo da vinci to Buckminster Fuller. Perhaps Robert Heinlein wrote about the perils of specialization best in his book, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long:
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
What about expertise? While it's something we all aspire to and depend on, its' fallibility continues to remind us not to rely automatically on people we think are experts. You needn't go further than the Chinese protestors bemoaning the competency of the Malaysian government in accounting for their relatives on Flight 370 to see that premature, unthinking faith in experts is frequently heartbreaking or worse.
This is not to say that purity, specialization, and expertness are not useful - they all have a place in human experience. But when they dominate both our landscapes of action(what we do) - and our landscapes of consciousness(what we think about) - they can dramatically undercut the value we place on direct experience. How does that work?