In a recent TIME article Ken Burns was quoted as saying “I think this will be the great struggle with our civilization, the idea that we can substitute artificial experiences for real experiences.” The threat of artificial experiences–those that are digitally created– replacing our real or natural ones is imminent in the Digital Age. In a time where there is mass appeal in the mimicry or creation of artificial experiences, we lose sight of our real ones. Corporations also stand to gain profit by finding ways to make everyday experiences in life easier, faster, more convenient and more entertaining.

Take for instance the everyday experience of social interaction: with the overwhelming popularity of internet dating and social networking sites people now need only to log onto a computer to be social. Friendships and relationships are created, maintained and even “deleted” at the click of a mouse. With the popularity of sites like Facebook and Twitter, even the Google corporation has invested in a new social networking site, Google +. How will this affect future generations’ ability to interact in person?

But the effect of these digital experiences extends beyond replacing our real ones extends beyond social interaction. Kids today can build a civilization on a computer game but cannot build anything with their hands. Kids can score a touchdown on the Madden video game but no longer run outside and spend time holding a real football. Why would companies invest money in educational or recreational programs for kids when there’s more money to be made in producing digital substitutes? I am inclined to agree with Kens Burns, the threat of artificial experiences replacing our real ones may be the great challenge of our modern, digitalized civilization.

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