While I was sitting outside today, cigarette in one hand, droid in the other, I paused to think about technology. The reason it occured to me then and there as an idea is that I was watching Netflix on my phone. I stopped dead in my tracks in the middle of an episode of Doctor Who and began to examine the role of technology in my life and its role in society.
At the age of 26 I do not consider myself aged nor do I consider myself a child either. I marvel often at how far technology has gone in the last little while and how far we as human beings have come because of it. Technology within itself has always been used to make life easier and more convinient for the end user. It has also helped us to become more efficient but, at what cost?
Technology can be presented in many different ways and is somewhat of a loose categorization. The dictionary defines technology as the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, esp. in industry: “computer technology”; “recycling technologies”. When I read this definition, it is hard for me to understand our use of technology as, the same scientific principles that made possible the portable stereo and eventually the Mp3 player also brought us the fart machine. I wonder, what practical purpose does the fart machine serve?
Don’t get me wrong. I think farts are hilarious even though I am not a ten year old. I do enjoy farts. I enjoy the act of farting though and can do it on command granted, it isn’t as easy as pushing a button and often I find myself needing new pants. I did not start this rant to crap on the fart machine(see what I did there) but to examine the progression of technology throughout the last few years.
When I was in high school, I recall getting my first cell phone. I was a junior and the year was 2001. My parents had thought it best for me to have a phone since I had begun working a job at one of the local grocery stores. This phone, in comparrisson to my netflxing droid, was laughable. The screen was small, the only colors it displayed were green and black. It could not surf the internet and had certainly could not enable me to watch Doctor Who whenever I pleased. It simply made calls. It didn’t even text. I didn’t send my first text message until I was 20 by the way. When it rang it played one of eight ring tones… I think mine was the 1812 Overture done as a midi file.
This phone I bring up was cutting edge at the time. My new phone is our cutting edge technology as it is today. I can surf the internet and receive emails. On top of that, I can play a multitude of games that have better graphics than many of the games I had played up to the point in which I recieved the origional phone in high school. My current phone is a powerhouse compared to my first real computer.
My first computer was a Packerd Bell with a 133Mhz processor and 16mbs of RAM. Compared to my new phone, this computer is a slow kid in a helmet, vauguely capable of everyday tasks. I remember having buy a new computer when we first got the interent at the house. I was in the eight grade when we got the internet but had used it at school long before this. At the time, the itneret was a vast network with very few things on it other than viruses, phone numbers for things, a few games, the news, and of course, porn. Early internet porn was almost worthless to me and my friends. It wasn’t because we lacked the immaturity to enjoy it but rather that we lacked a decent enough connection to benefit from being able to see naked women on the computer. It would have been faster for us to get on our bikes, go to the nearest store that would sell chloroform, buy some, pedal to a busy commons, kidnap a living, breathing woman, and then make her take her clothes off. For the longest time I thought women kept pixels in their panties. I know better now.
This was a time before Wikipedia and facebook. Our only encyclopedia was the Encarta.I loved the Encarta because of this game it had full of trivia. It was an endless set of rooms in a dark castle. Each door posed a question, each person you met posed one too. Wikipedia doesn’t have a fun game to their credit but they do have an ass load of articles, most of which are seemingly reliable and often times comically incorrect. I read one last year that began “Thomas Edison was an American inventor a porn enthusiast.” I am going to end this though here for lack of anything that can top Edison the porn enthusiast in the same paragraph.
Facebook would have looked strange to my friends and I. We were AIM freaks and loved talking to random people, often times pretending to be cooler than we were and a lot of the times older. This was not an uncommon practice on the internet and still isn’t but, we thought we were the only ones doing it. My friends had pretended to be me to these strangers once, I am still fuzzy on why, and had formed a relationship with this person called Ariel. She seemed nice enough and the technology had not yet been put together for us to actually see what one another looked like yet so, we enjoyed an intense and very dedicated relationship. We would IM until the connections dropped and timed out and then would email each other about our days. That was intense for a ninth grader in the fall of 1998. Intense internet relationship means something entirely different now and I know this because the thought never crossed my mind to send this poor girl a picture of my genetails.
One of the things I find most intriguing about the brave new world of technology is how lonely this new brave world is. People do not connect like they once did. I am a smoker and once, a long time ago, used it as an instrument to meet new and interesting people. In an age of internet ready phones, people just do not make small talk anymore. I am guilty of it myself. I would rather play Angry Birds anytime over talking to a stranger… a stranger. My mother always taught me never to talk to them and the society that has been cultivated as a result of technology has enforced it.
All in all though technology does seem great. I like it and know that it has become a steady constant in the lives of everyone who has access to it. Our dependence on tech has become the norm but is however debilitating at times. Recently I myself fell victim of phone outage. My phone received an update from the provider and it killed it. My phone could no longer connect to the internet, play Angry Birds, or surf the marketplace for something else to waste my time with. In essence, my phone had become a phone again. It was liberating in a sense. In another I was terrified. How ever was I to function without just noise and constant streaming distractions hitting me in my face?
I do not know why it was maddening but, I can imagine our dependency on tech will soon be our undoing. Technology is supposed to make tasks more efficient and far more practical and for a while they did. When the printing press was invented, it made it easier to be a writer. When the industrial revolution occurred,it made way for more innovations. Now, its like we stand still in our progress, like we don’t know where to go next.
I feel like technology is making us lazy in a sense. I don’t know if I am right about this or not but, I can say for certain that it has had a negative impact on humanity in some ways. I think time will tell in the end whether our technology pushed us forward or if it in the end crippled us. For better or worse we have become children of a digital age. A time where we could very well see the death of print media and the casual conversation but, I hope that it will be a bright tomorrow in spite of it all. I hope for flying cars, for space travel, for an end to the journey as we know it now and a bold frontier that is need of conquering. I fear though that given the chance, we will look back down at our phones and remain idle.