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Monday, 27 March, 2000, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Is Europe losing its soul to technology?
Faster is better, say the entrepreneurs - if you want it now, you should have it now. You're connected, you're plugged in, you're reachable everywhere.

The Now Generation, the Hurry Society - call it what you will. It seems to work for the Americans - but will it work over here?

Is Europe going too fast for its own good? Is technology threatening to destroy Europe's soul? British writer and broadcaster, Simon Hoggart, and the German on-line journalist, Sebastian Voss tackle this issue on this week's Europewide debate. Tell us what you think.


Your reaction

If Europe does not want to be just a follower it has to find its own way to enrich the Web

Guillaume Alasseur, France
I don't want to be the advocate of the devil, but it seems that the heart of the debate "Europe vs Internet" is not to know whether the Old Continent will lose its soul but how it will make its voice echo in the new territories of the Net. If Europe does not want to be just a follower it has to find its own way to enrich the Web and all its components. Just like 500 years ago, Europe has to remember how it is to discover a New World.
Guillaume Alassuer, France

I don't think it's true to say that Europe is losing it's soul to technology any more than America or any other country is. What is happening is that the individual is being empowered by technology to be a more active citizen. In the next century, it will not be a select group of European bureaucrats making the decisions but a community of European citizens voting on issues in person via the internet. Technology can bring back to Europe the true spirit of a democracy, where everyone can cast a vote on every issue in person.
Mark Schofield, France

No. Quite the contrary, technology and communication will actually reveal the true essence of the " European Soul" if this can truly be defined.
S Samtani, USA

The danger with questions like "is Europe losing its soul to technology" is that they perpetuate the illusion that there is such a thing as Europe's soul, distinct from the soul of the individual who ponders about it and whose daily personal intercourse with technology shapes Europe's soul.
"No man is an island... if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less... And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee...". Is my soul washed away by technology, that is the question I must ask myself daily.
Daniel Laguitton, Canada

If we do not compete, we will DIE.

Andy Dobson, UK, working in USA
Wake up and smell the coffee, how long does Europe think it can survive without competing with the US. I am working currently in San Diego and the i-Drive is phenomenal, I overheard two under grads last night telling how they were going to do MBAs in 2 years.
I told a work colleague that The PM wants all schools 'internet ready' by end 2001, he laughed in derision. If we do not compete, we will DIE.
Andy Dobson, UK, working in USA

I'm the CEO of a startup mobile Internet business. In my opinion Europe as a whole is not deploying technology fast enough. Europe needs to make sure that technology and the Internet are the central theme of all business thinking as we move into the first decade of the new century. We simply cannot afford to be complacent about this issue. Letting up on the pace is not an option.
Andrew Herron, UK

10% average unemployment in the EU compared to 4.2% in the US. Of course Europeans should embrace the internet like the Americans but even more so if jobs are to be created. Communications technology builds bridges, it doesn't destroy souls. I find it somewhat ridiculous to suggest it does.
Michelle, England

The internet will have no more effect on Europe than any other invention.

Zaki Moosa, South Africa
Another example of the immature excitement about the internet. The internet will have no more effect on Europe than any other invention. Can you see the English giving up the pub to order bulk beer over the internet? Will the French stop going to the local market, instead choosing to go to dreary e-commerce sites? Of course not.
Zaki Moosa, South Africa

Losing our soul is complete nonsense, IT is going to liberate the individual, improve education, broaden people's minds - open up the future of mankind.
Norman Horobin, UK

We'll always be far behind the US as long we still have to pay local telephone charges while connected to the Internet.

Arturo Rodriguez, Spain
Hey don't worry about it. We'll always be far behind the US as long we still have to pay local telephone charges while connected to the Internet. Who cares about European training programmes, e-commerce, etc., when most Europeans can't afford to stay online for more than a few hours per month? All discussion of the impact of the internet in Europe is meaningless as long as this remains the case.
Arturo Rodriguez, Spain

I don't think we are losing our soul to technology - in fact I think quite the reverse! The increase in the ease of communication - whether by phone, email, car or plane - has allowed people to break free of their physical communities (in which they may not be happy) and become members of "communities of choice" - virtual or transient communities made up of members who choose to be there, as opposed to being forced to adopt a particular community by accident of birth or physical immobility. Of course some claim this breaks up social cohesiveness - when your friends are in Moscow or Manchester or Milan and you don't know your next-door-neighbour's name - but so what?
Pete Morgan-Lucas, Wiltshire, UK

I am an Englishman married to an American girl and living in Florida. My comment is that the advent of e-commerce gives the smaller business a significant benefit in being able to reach not only a national, but an international market for an incredibly low cost. This is something that was only a dream a few years ago. The faster this service is available, the quicker they will be able to compete for a share of the world's profits.
Terry Matthews, USA

The US has lost it's soul to high tech!

Jody Palm, USA
The US has lost it's soul to high tech! I hope the EU has enough sense not to fall into the same trap. The more we in the US "hurry up", the less quality of life we have, the less connection to real, live people we have, and the less time we have for our family, friends and hobbies. We are becoming one-dimensional, albeit rich automatons. Yuck! It's not all as rosy as our news media would have you believe.
Jody Palm, USA

Is Europe losing its soul to technology? It's the other way around. If dedication had been combined with technology, it wouldn't have been menacing to mankind in a way as it is today...
Ron Brandenburg, The Netherlands

Modern technology opens up whole new ways of expressing one's character and imagination.

Simon Bennett, UK
I don't think we are losing our souls, just that modern technology opens up whole new ways of expressing one's character and imagination. I work for an 'international communications super-carrier' and am at the front end of seeing the massive increase in use of electronic bandwidth around the globe, both via satellite and fibre. The growth is truly staggering.
At the end of the working day I now have a much greater choice over how I spend my free time; whether it be surfing on the net with my kids and helping with their homework, or having a drink in the 'local' - the choices are immense.
I have a 75 year old mother who is relatively immobile in her home, and has taken up the daunting task (I believe for her generation) of getting to grips with PC's and e-mail. She finds that it is fast becoming a lifeline in communication, especially with a widely spread family, that would otherwise not keep in touch so well.
Simon Bennett, UK

I wasn't aware that Europe had yet become so cohesive as to have a single character or soul. My experiences suggest that Europe is made up of may different flavours and ways of life. The pace of change only affects the speed with which people go from one state to another. What those states are depends on the priorities and desires of those using the technology to achieve change.
Having said that working practices have a huge impact on the type of society you have. If no one has enough time and everyone is always rushing around, then there can be no time for others, so community life will suffer. The UK is an example of this. But this is not the technology, rather people allowing it to dominate their lives, rather than their lives set the demands they place on their technologies.
Eoin Donnellon, UK

Great Britain has always been too slow to invest in new and innovative ideas.

Phil Merry, UK
I am the CEO of a small group of IT companies. Whilst we are small, we are in the early stages of developing two Internet based products. One is designed to make buying goods on line easier and safer through some ingenious software and algorithms. Our software will open the internet to many small company's, those who can not afford the expense offered by Merchant Banking distributors. Our software is designed to retail at between 150 and 200 pounds and would allow 'cottage industries' to get on board the super e-commerce highway.
Typically, Great Britain has always been too slow to invest in new and innovative ideas forcing the Great British Inventor to go across the pond. That is why we are so far behind the USA, all our good ideas are snapped up by the US businesses who can not only see the immediate and long term turnover but are also not afraid to take risks.
Phil Merry, UK

An unusual topic for debate, technology drives society not the other way around. I mean we didn't lose our souls when water power, the spinning jenny, or television was invented we just changed our lifestyles. The opportunities offered by communication technology do have the potential for great good so I don't think people need to be worried at all.
Paul Galbally, Rep. of Ireland

Technology seems to be of lower importance in Europe than in the UK.

Mark Lisle, Germany
As a UK national travelling in Europe I can genuinely say that technology seems to be of lower importance in Europe than in the UK.
The level of software development is just about keeping pace with consumer demand especially for GSM phones and in Germany it still seems to be treat still as a second rate skill. Hence the reason that many contractors abroad are British.
I would think that as regarding losing its soul that is nonsense, since technology aids travelling the greater distances in Europe and allows people to stay at home with families and enjoy a more fulfilled social life except us computer contractors of course. But we get good recompense.
Mark Lisle, Germany

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07 Mar 00 | Business
16 Mar 00 | Politics
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