Are We Being Punked By Technology?

Now I realize that today’s technology can do more. But I sense there is something’ rotten in Denmark’ with today’s technology. When electrical lighting, the camera, the telephone, TV, fax machine and the first cell phones were introduced they were designed to be easy to use. While I was in the New York advertising business for 30 years I promoted many of these products.

Today most of our cameras, cell phones, computers, and TV’s can defy knowing how to even turn them on, let alone how to use them. It seems these devices are created to amuse the people who invented them, to control us, and make a lot of money. We’ve had to create an IT industry to show us what we don’t know how to do. There is so much software in the hardware, they are hard to bare period! We say, in a generational- excuse,” oh well, the children seem to figure them all out fast enough.” I challenge that is the best use of our children’s energy and serving their highest good to spend dozen of hours a day separated from their fellow human beings mastering these marvels; instead of speaking to one another, (they text with limited letter characters) and developing social skills and their character.

Yes, technology is powering us forward in a new, faster world. But I wonder if it is always actually better. I believe there is a more human way to create how we communicate and entertain ourselves. Do we have to combine so much technology into a camera or phone that it is actually a complex computer that few actually know how to use unless they have a master’s degree in computer science. Most people learn what they need to know and find it difficult to teach others beyond that. Why do we have to take computer classes to be and do our most basic human function: communicate with one another? I find most of the how-to booklets that are included with the purchase of these items even more confusing than the design of the product itself. There is so much ability crammed into the product, in a small amount of space, a large handed person cannot find finger room; the booklets trying to explain it all have diagrams that an Egyptiantologist would have difficulty translating.

Now I am not proposing that we go back to pencil and paper, but I am suggesting that we consumers take a closer look at our decision-making in purchasing these often confounding product designs that are purposed to move us into being a more advanced civilization. I am the first to applaud how cyberspace and the internet are breaking down barriers throughout the world. But I know in my heart, there is greed and control behind why things are so technically complicated. Why aren’t PC’s and Mac’s more compatible? Why does so much software not work everywhere? It has to do with who makes money where. This needs to change.

Cyberspace belongs to all of us. It is a way to free us from the governments and religions and others forces that have controlled us for eons on this planet. Cyberspace, and its products need to be easy to use and available to all. Keeping personal technology complex increases their costs, and reduces availability to the many. Technology should not be just for the advantaged or just for those who have money or detailed training in knowing how to use them. It is a gift to us all.

I know there are some more user friendly designs, and applications,and voice activated technology on the drawing boards of corporate America. Let’s see if we can take some of the greed, intense corporate competition out of the mix that does not benefit the consumer. Now I know this is hard, but it can be done while still making a decent profit.

So here is my challenge to all you designers/producers of the products we have become so dependent upon in our modern lives: make it easy and fun to use (words of Steve Jobs).

Technology is Killing Us

If we take our cue from Hollywood, there is no doubt that technology is bad. Whether there are machines traveling back through time to kill us, or whether the machines are simply enslaving us in a virtual reality to steal our body energy: we definitely need to keep a close eye on the machines.

Of course, technology isn’t all that bad. There are many profound benefits. The entire world is now connected by cheap travel and light-speed internet connections. A mountain of information is available at our fingertips through technologies like Google. However, there are a few bad aspects of technology which are worth mentioning.

1. Distraction

With technology, we are able to do so many things at once. We can check our email while chatting on our cell phone and watching the latest news report on our television. Technology allows us to multi-task in a way we never have before. Some people have pride in their ability to multi-task. Unfortunately, in 2008 the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) reported that multitasking reduces our IQ more than smoking pot. If we are fully focused on a task and become distracted, it takes us on average 20 minutes to regain that focus. If you are multi-tasking throughout the day, it is likely you are working extremely hard while not actually being very productive.

2. Shallow Sociality

Social networking sites like Facebook are truly revolutionary. They allow you to keep in touch with hundreds of friends. However, most modern psychology studies have shown that a large part of our happiness is derived from meaningful relationships with about half a dozen people. The more time we spend posting status updates and managing our large network of acquaintances, the less time we spend cultivating relationships with the most important people in our lives. Many people are able to strike a nice balance here. Unfortunately, many aren’t.

3. Disconnection from Nature

Technology has built a false, cold world around us made out of concrete and metal. Our only experience with wild animals is when we go to the zoo and watch them lay lazily in cages. Humans aren’t really designed to work in an office building every day of their lives. Interacting with animals and nature teaches us about ourselves. Throughout history, humans have had to hunt and grow their own food. They had to pay respect to the animals that they killed and the sun and the rain that helped them grow their food. Now we simply drive to the grocery store to buy Twinkies and potato chips.