Friday, April 18, 2014

Week Sixteen – too tech or not too tech!

That is the question! Have we become too dependent on technology that when it’s gone we are crippled?

As an advocate of technology and an absolute fan of innovative products like Apple, I am probably the last person to question whether we have become too dependant on our gadgets to survive, but this week I faced several challenges that made me question if too much technology is making our lives a misery rather than a joy.

As a kid I grew up in an era in which we were just starting to get the taste of what it’s like to have amazing gadgets that are supposed to make our lives easier. I still remember getting all exited about getting my first “calculator” watch (remember one of those?) And this is how basic but amazing it was in those days, when as a young man you would get exited to be given a calculator! Of course this was on a watch, which made it all the more attractive but nonetheless a calculator!. And when you compare it to what is happening today, it is really no different, with the exception that things have got much sexier when it comes to these devices. Samsung produced last year a watch they named “gear” which was launched with their rather large phone/tablet and it is meant to be an extension of your stuff in the device. Apple is rumored to be coming up with something similar, the “I-watch”, which again will serve the purpose of accessing something you already have in your I-phone. So when you compare the soon to come out “I-watch” (which no doubt I will acquire!) with my calculator watch, not much has changed on how we love to surround ourselves with these “useless” gadgets.

But the question here remains “too tech or not too tech” and we have to understand if we really need all this stuff to get by in life. I am personally in two minds about this, especially after this week.

Why am I in two minds? I do believe that some of the technologies that exist have made our lives immensely better, as I learned recently when I was in hospital with my little relapse in health. Although doctors will never be able to fully diagnose what may be wrong with someone (at least not at present) with all these new machines, the equipment they have today to analyze and look for things is amazing. During my two days with chronicle chest pains I was put through several tests and equipment that really left me amazed at what we have come up to look for things. From the traditional ultrasound to the newest CT scan tunnel where they are able to see every vain in your body by injecting you with a liquid and putting your though what seemed Homer Simpson’s giant white doughnut! After all the tests they were able to tell me everything I didn’t have but to this day they still cannot tell me what I had. This is where I think we are still a long way to go with technology.

On the other hand this week really showed me that in some aspects the reliance on technology has become a hindrance and the old traditional methods work best. Let me share with you a couple of examples:

During my vacation I hired a car to get around in Spain. I am sure many of you, like me, have become almost dependent on the satellite navigation system to get you form A to B and without it, we get lost. They are pretty reliable as far as gadgets are concerned and most of the time “TomTom” knows best (even though we still believe we are superior to our machines and we question the route our imaginary SatNav friend has suggested) but they get us there. However, some times they don’t work! And when they don’t, all of the sudden we are not sure what to do, we become paralyzed and panic thinking “how am I going to get there!” This was the case as I was on my way back to the airport and my trusty navigation system failed. Now, as a techno savvy person, I do relay on other gadgets in case one fails and I took out my phone where I also have a SatNav application and the day was saved! Or so I thought… I soon discovered that I needed Internet to get it working! Do you know how expensive it is to data roaming? So my choices were, pay up or get lost! As I was working through all of this in my head, I also thought “how did we do it in the “olden” days?” and the answer was simple, we read the signs on the road and follow them and I am sure no one got as lost as I was because I am not accustomed anymore to use my instinct, reading skills and think how to get to my destination!

I also needed to print some reports this week for work which are done though a third party website. These reports are a personality questionnaire that people fill in on line and we use them as part of their development. In “the olden days” we had a form they filled in and then score, giving them the same results you get today on the computer generated report. The website was down, I could not print the reports and I panicked as I didn’t know what I could do without them. I was crippled because I did not have these reports and I through “if only I was doing it on paper…”

And like these, there are plenty of other examples where, when technology is not there, we freeze not knowing what to do. Think about it… electricity gets cut off, our systems are down and we cannot use the computer, we sit there, not knowing what to do, we relay too much on our laptops to get our work done! Or your e-mail is down, we can’t reach someone, Facebook doesn’t work, you can’t text someone, the X-box is broken and so on, all everyday gadgets that almost dominate our lives and we are useless without them.

Are machines taking over the world? Is the prophecy of the film “The Terminator” coming true? Or we will continue to be in control of our lives managing technology? I think the answer to this we will never know, or at least not in our lifetime and perhaps our children or grand children will become so dependable on technology that the question will no longer be asked. Perhaps then they will never know what life is without gadgets.

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