For generations brought up devouring the wonderful works of Isaac Asimov in books such as the i Robot, The Bicentennial Man and many others, the world today is like living a dream. Predictions of wireless appliances, of batteries that are long-lived, the gadgets that relieve us of tedious work, they have all come true. An inspirational quote of Asimov, “the saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom”, perhaps holds invaluable guidance for the technology-dependent lives that we lead today.
Pearls of comfort
Do we really regret technology? Definitely not! It has made our travel easier, we can communicate with the world, access to knowledge lies just beyond a couple of clicks, our sleep is monitored, and we eat, socialize, and converse electronically.
Take schooling for example. The school of yesteryears was away from home and still is in most instances. However, with newer methods of learning, with technology-enabled learning, we are migrating slowly to homeschooling. Increasingly, homework and assignments are delivered online, assessments are near real-time and we no longer venture out to the library, we Google for information instead. In the rare case that libraries still exist in our neighborhoods, we might find a generation of digital natives busy scouring for information on wireless-enabled devices.
We no longer have to trudge all the way to the local farmer’s market or beat the rain, the snow, or the sun, depending on which part of the world we are located in, to visit our banker for a cash withdrawal. We can no longer be fooled by the local merchant with higher prices, we compare prices online, buy things from the comfort of the home and have things delivered at home. Why take the hassle of lugging a heavy bag from the local grocer?
Navigating through the city is so much easier, we can plan our routes before we venture out of our home, and no longer need to remember landmarks that would lead us to our destination. The days of waving down a cab at a busy junction or the uncertainty of getting one is gone. We hail cabs on our smart-phones, we use apps. Apps load us with information of the weather, delivers news almost in real-time, reminds us of the extra calories that our greed helped us gorge on, reminds us of our appointments, and even helps us be at peace as we can track the location of the kid’s school bus.
The Unsocial Social
Think about it, the only time we do not use technology in our lives perhaps doesn’t even exist today. Our lives are so much simpler, we do not need to buy stamps to send a greeting to a loved one. During calamities, we just update our Facebook status and let well-wishers know that we are safe obviously, we could update our status. We no longer need the hassle of a conversation, we chat on messaging platforms to stay in touch. Face-to-face conversations, who needs it today? We e-mail, our co-workers are virtual, and we connect with our banker to be greeted by a chatbot. Who needs humans anyway?
The dilemma is best reflected by people who experienced the blackout during the summer of 2003. Entire cities and even nations went off the power grid and citizens were out on the streets. Strangers met their neighbors for the first time and the front yards of houses were bubbly again. People were talking to each other.
To recall another inspirational quote, former United States Representative, Mark Kennedy once said,
“All of the biggest technological inventions created by man – the airplane, the automobile, the computer – says little about his intelligence, but speaks volumes about his laziness.” Many would subscribe to the view considering that we do not even make the effort to remember a phone number or memorize important details, or that we are less socially involved and more reliant on devices.
Would you say that Tim Berners Lee, the brain behind the Internet was lazy? The engineers that designed modern transport, the airplanes, and the automobiles, were they lazy? On the contrary, it was their ingenuity that made our lives easier. They were no doubt time-saving inventions but with a focus to improve the quality of lives.
Engineering has evolved as humanity has progressed and maybe soon consumers would have access to virtual reality, to driverless vehicles, or perhaps time-travel. Who knows the opportunity the new technologies will bring? Looking at the past, however, we are sure that despite the initial resistance, we will adapt and not quit technology and chance stagnation. What we shouldn’t be doing is latch on to technology such that it becomes the life for us. We should use it wisely and not just depend on it.