A few recent experiences have spurred my thinking on the subject of humanity vs technology. Some of this will seem inevitable and some of it will seem commonsense to you. Some of it might even go against the grain of what you are currently working on right now. My purpose is to get you thinking about how you go about your life using technology – by yourself and around others.
I am not sure if it’s just me but I feel we are starting the upswing on what will be viewed as the turning point in our society. We will never have a “slower” life than we do today. Cell phones allowing us to talk to and message anyone in the world was just the beginning of this movement. Now, we have really powerful mobile computers in our pockets which basically bring the entire world to us – instantly – with a touch of a finger. In a not so distant future we will be wearing these computers on our wrists (I hope not) or our faces with such innovations like Google Glass. Will brain implants one day do away with any device or hardware required to access all the worlds information?
Fashion faux pas aside, I think these technical advancements are inevitable yet at the same time very scary.
What seems to bother me is what will happen to our humanity as all these technical advancements come into our lives. We already deal with the quick “phone, text and email check” at the dinner table or during a conversation with someone else.
Is it lost on our society that this action is actually quite rude to the other person you are sitting with? I know I am guilty of frequently swiping my iPhone and seeing what I missed over the last 5 or 10 minutes. In reality, it simply says to the other person, “you are not very important to me and I am wondering what other bits of information I can quickly scan to keep my attention.”
What will happen when we were a pair of glasses with a screen ever-present right in front of us?
I am afraid we, as a society, are not prepared for this use of technology. Socialogically, we are trained to observe people and gauge them via non-verbal cues as to how we are connecting with them. Are they threatened, scared, turned on, tuned out, distracted, interested, ect… The human eyes/mind/body instantly calculates all these millions of inputs and tells us what is going on within this specific human interaction. We live our lives on non-verbal human cues.
These thoughts hit my mind the other day as I read an interesting article in the New York Times with the idea that Friends don’t let friends lose their capacity for humanity. It raises the same alarming points I am mentioning here.
Ironically, as tech advances to help us “connect” with others we seem to be moving farther away from actually connecting with them – on a human level. Does a text message saying “hi” do more than a slightly extended eye-gaze between two interested individuals? Absolutely not. I can learn more in 2 seconds looking at woman than 100 text messages sent from her iPhone. All those text messages just create more questions and uncertainty between the two people.
The second experience happened yesterday as I was chatting with friend. She mentioned how she was a natural introvert and she really needed to get out more, get away from her monitor and into social situations more often. According to her she has a tendancy to lose track of time when she gets into her work and feels more at home in front of the screen.
I understand what see is saying but I also counter with the fact that she actually feels more at home across the table from me looking into a human eye and enjoying a face to face chat. That is why she said she needs it more often. There are just certain things we see/say/do which will never be replaced with technology. Even Skyping with others doesn’t actually feed our appetites for human connection. Like it or not you are addicted to dopamine – a chemical released when you interact with other human beings – and you will withdraw from society if you do not get enough on a consistent basis.
All this has me thinking deeper on what technology means for us humans and how we should use it in our daily lives. More interesting is the fact that as time goes on and technology continues to move us “forward” we will actually desire more of these authentically human encounters.
Our society depends on it.
As I continue my path in the technology sector and build experiences around the web and mobile devices I make sure I keep one foot firmly planted in the area of Humanity so I don’t end up losing it. I hope others do too, it would be a shame if we all just ended up always looking down at our mobile devices tweeting about the fact that we are feeling alone in a crowd.