Is resistance futile—or can you control the tech surrounding you?
Check your Apple Watch! That’s right—it’s the most wonderful time of the year: It’s new iPhone time! Within a couple of weeks, we’ll be awash in a wave of punditry telling us how the latest iPhone is both the best and worst thing to ever happen.
Now, lest you think I’m an Apple shill, I’m only using this as an example of how important tech has become in our lives. There are some folks that actually look forward to these Apple events more than Christmas.
Truth is, we’ve been immersed in technology for centuries now. We’ve gotten so used to some of it that we don’t even consider it “tech” anymore. Do you wear glasses? Congratulations, you’re a cyborg!
Actually, tech to enhance and/or fix the human body is probably the most important kind we have. If you’re diabetic, you may have an automated pump that helps control your blood sugar. Busted hip? Might as well get a new one implanted. The old ticker not tocking the way it should? A pacemaker will fix you right up. These things are all so familiar, we sometimes forget just how amazing they are.
Even our pets benefit from tech. Many cats and dogs have an RFID (Radio Frequency ID) chip implanted just under their skin. These emit a unique ID when scanned, so that a lost pet can be returned to its rightful owner. Pets are even beginning to benefit from the 3D printing revolution. Perhaps you saw the recent video of a dog, born with stunted front legs, that was able to run for the first time using 3D-printed prosthetics. It’s a great example of how tech can change a life for the better.
Speaking of 3D printing, back in 2014 the crew of the International Space Station needed a ratchet to perform a repair. But they didn’t have the right one. So, rather than wait for the next supply ship, a ratchet was designed and approved on the ground, and the plans sent to the station’s 3D printer. A few hours later, the ratchet was ready to go and the repair was made.
3D printers are also making BIG things, like furniture and cars. There are companies that have plans to 3D print houses, and MIT recently showed off a 3D printer that actually prints glass structures. You can even print food with the right type of printer. (Not as fast as a “Star Trek” replicator, but give it 300 years.)
You may not have your own 3D printer yet, but your house is probably chock full of other tech that you don’t even think about. Smart thermostat? Regular thermostat? Air conditioning? That’s probably the most important tech you own, right there. Seriously, would you want to live in the South without A/C?
Got Wi-Fi? Netflix? Do you remember what it was like before EPB Fiber came along? Heck, do you even remember life before cable? When my kids are bad, I tell them stories that go like this:
“There were just THREE channels! And you had to wait for shows to come on. If you missed one, that was it! And there was another, scary dial on the TV: UHF. Nobody knew what it stood for, but it was haunted by ghostly channels and a couple of imps named ‘Igou’ and ‘Broome’...”
Of course today we get all of our entertainment on demand: Music. Videos. Music Videos. All available whenever you want. Combine that with the portability of a smartphone, and you’ve got all the world’s entertainment at your fingertips.
But it’s not just entertainment. We literally have the entirety of human knowledge available to us at a moment’s notice. Through sites like Wikipedia, The Kahn Academy, YouTube (and many more), you can basically learn anything you want to know. That is, if you have the patience for it, and remember not to read the comments!
If you have a newer car, that’s probably loaded with tech too. Most cars feature at least smartphone integration, and high-end cars, like Teslas, have a big touch-screen control center right in the middle of the dash.
Who’s in charge: you or your phone?
Of course, all of this immersion comes with a price: dependence. Could you function without your glasses? What about the turn-by-turn directions from your smartphone? When was the last time you were able to give out a phone number, from memory…without pulling it from your phone? (Do you even know your Significant Other’s phone number?)
The more dependent on a piece of tech we are, the more vulnerable we are if it malfunctions. For example, If your pacemaker stops working, you’ll be in dire straits pretty quickly. If your car breaks down, how long can you go without it before your life falls apart?
How long can you even go without your smartphone? Have you checked it while reading this article? What about this entire issue? How many times has it beeped at you while you’ve been perusing this issue of The Pulse?
Another huge problem is isolation. The more tech we have around us, the more isolated we get. It’s paradoxical, but it’s happening more and more every day.
Why go to a movie and sit with strangers when you can sit at home and watch stuff on your 65-inch screen?
Why go out and listen to live music when you can sit in your favorite chair and listen to it on your smartphone?
Why talk to your parents, when there’s a hilarious Vine you can watch where, “This guy, he’s sitting on the couch, and he’s on the phone with this other guy and the other guy says something, and then the first guy says, ‘Deez Nuts!’, and then he laughs, and then he says, ‘Got eeem!’ and laughs some more!”? (Actual description of a Vine by my kid.)
Really, why wouldn’t you want to do that to the exclusion of all other human contact?
Social networks? They aren’t really all that “social.” Ever gotten into a fight on Facebook? It’s super easy to do and can be surprisingly harmful to your mental well-being and even make you physically ill.
Social networks also seem to cater to our need to belong to a “tribe.” We tend to self-select and “friend” only those people that have our same political and religious views, while weeding out posts that make us uncomfortable or challenge our beliefs.
Heck, if you are an Android person, you might not have even made it this far into the article, because I’m obviously one of those idiot iPhone lovers.
There can even be physical side effects to tech addiction. If you walk and text, you’re probably going to end up bumping into a light post. If you drive and text, you’re going to die.
If you binge watch “Alf” on your phone in bed, you are, at a minimum, going to end up with a very sore neck. You’ll probably also end up sleeping on the couch.
And if you are still wearing a Bluetooth headset, you’re going to die alone. (Full disclosure: I had one of the first Bluetooth headsets in town. I wore it proudly until I saw the guy with the second Bluetooth headset.)
But, maybe the biggest danger comes from the fact that people will believe almost anything they see online and it’s making us stupid. Here are just a few recent examples of insane stories that people share without thinking:
• Mars is going to be as big as the Moon later this year! Like!
• The end of the world is coming in October! Better share that!
• Donald Trump ahead in the polls! Surely not a sign of the apocalypse!
All far-fetched, but only one is true.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my tech and I’m convinced we’re better off with it than without it. But, you’ve got to make some effort to make it work for you.
First of all, you’ve got to become a skeptic. Just because Uncle Moe shared that article, doesn’t mean it’s true. Do some digging before you share it. To paraphrase Mamma Gump: “Stupid is as stupid shares.”
Second, make some time for those…things…moving there…in your peripheral vision. Your, um…Family! Yes, that’s them! Put the phone down. Spend time with that whiney thing with a tail. Also known as the dog. When you sit down to eat, gather up the phones and put them in a bag. You will be glared at. This is normal.
But don’t panic. This isn’t the first time Humanity has been through this. When printing presses became widespread, the information overload was insane, and most of those people couldn’t even read.
When TV hit, they said we’d become a nation of zombies.
OK. That last one was a near miss. Still, if you use your tech sensibly, you’ll master it, and not the other way around.
Actually, I am an Apple shill. Apple, please send me all the free stuff care of The Pulse.
Photo by Miguel Ugalde