Looking back on life without all the gadgets. When we weren’t connected 24/7. When we weren’t checking our e-mail every five minutes. When we didn’t sit in front of the TV while surfing the Web on our tablet.
Has the tsunami of information at our fingertips made us better informed or perpetually distracted? Is life richer, or simply a daily dose of Short Attention Span Theater?
Was life better then?
Not that long ago, a few generations perhaps, the world seemed vast, mysterious, mythical. Wars and calamities abroad seemed so very far away and barely moved the needle in our collective consciousness.
Remember when summers were long, the weather temperate? Remember when life was endless days of pick-up baseball, bicycle rides, swimming in the local lake, hiking in the woods, stealing a kiss from the girl down the street? What the heck did technology have to do with that?
Was life less stressful? Did time move more slowly? Were we more human? Did we relate better to our fellow travelers? Did we better appreciate what we had?
It’s tempting to imagine that life was more pure then, less complicated, more real. Certainly, things were different. Our daily habits. Rituals. Routines. Schedules. Or lack thereof.
But was life better? It was certainly different, maybe more manageable, a little less scary, perhaps. But, no, not necessarily better.
Humanity in transition
Technology is moving faster than we can seemingly adapt to it, and therein lies the real challenge. We are evolving, but seemingly not fast enough. We still have much to learn about coping with the speed of change and adapting to it. We are in transition. We may always be.
When one looks at the world’s problems—global warming, wars, poverty, disease, famine, oppression, over-population, inequality—one could argue that technology has played a role in all of them.
But even in the 19th century, people celebrated technology. World’s Fairs were exciting and well attended, and the innovators and technologists of the day were highly respected and well regarded.
We wanted to advance as a population. Brave new world had good connotations then. Despite the naysayers on the fringe, people by and large saw technological progress as important and beneficial.
Good or evil?
So, is technology inherently good or inherently evil? The Luddites thought the latter, and had good reasons.
On the other hand, one can just as easily cite numerous examples where science and technology have lifted society, improved health care, made quantum leaps in our understanding of the universe, and improved so many things in so many practical ways.
Technology has the potential to democratize the world, level the playing field, elevate the underprivileged, and make things better.
It really comes down to how humans apply technology. Technology is not evil. But people can be, and the ways they can do harm to others is limited only by their imaginations.
Good, bad, or indifferent, technology is here to stay. Exponential developments will continue to emerge. Life will continue to change.
We must as a population continue to remind ourselves that we rule technology. Technology doesn’t rule us. We have free will. We know right from wrong.
As individuals, we can choose to recapture those endless days of summer, put down our gadgets for awhile, and reconnect with ourselves, our family, our friends and those simple pleasures that seem so elusive.