(We are doomed!) At what point has technology advanced too far? Answer: it already has…

UPDATE:

I fully believe now that we have doomed the human race with our technology.

I just read a story that says there is now a computer that (who?) can carry on a conversation with humans and even fool humans into thinking it (he or she?) is a real person.  The link to the story is: http://news.yahoo.com/cleverbot-computer-chats-human-183804542.html

My original post, dating back to April, done before I knew about this latest development, follows below:

————————

At what point has technology gone too far?

I don’t know the precise answer to that question, if there is one, but I think in most respects it has already.

When technology stops actually improving life and instead makes it more complicated or frenetic then it has gone too far. But it would be hard to point to when that began to be the case.

I don’t think the invention of the wheel was the point, and not even gun powder, necessarily. The splitting of the atom, yeah, maybe. We unleashed a terrible new weapon that actually has the potential to destroy mankind and the earth, even though there are arguably helpful side benefits, such as nuclear power — but then look what Japan is going through right now with its slow melt down of nuclear reactors and no one knowing quite what to do about it as deadly radiation spreads across that nation and even around the globe (although it is questioned as to how dangerous the radiation is the farther away it gets from the power plants that were hit by the recent tsunami). Poor Japan, the only nation to ever suffer a nuclear weapon attack and now this.

But back to: when did technology go too far?

Maybe in the late 18th Century and early 19th Century at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution when peasants moved to the cities for what they thought would be an improvement in their lives. They gave up the bucolic, pastoral life, and open air, and relative tranquility, albeit hard work, or maybe drudgery, for smoke-filled cities, long hours working at dangerous machines, with the only benefit being maybe a more secure income, as long as you could stay healthy breathing in the factory smoke and living in crowded tenements with poor sanitation. Maybe I have read too much literature, but it seems they would have been better off Far from the Madding Crowd.

And I know you cannot or should not believe everything you hear or every detail of what you hear, even from your own parents (we sometimes create fantasies out of nostalgia), but if my dad were alive today I might well ask him to tell me again about how it was when he was a little boy on the farm and when his folks would sometimes trade eggs or other produce at the store for things they needed and when at some points during the year the store would actually owe them money.

(Mom would not likely tell such a story. The old days were hard, and that was it, she would likely tell you.)

And here is a case of developing technology that I have some personal experience with:

When I began in the newspaper business in 1973, at newspapers big and small, we were all still pounding away at manual typewriters. I always had a hard time at those things. I practically thought I had died and gone to heaven the first time I ever used an electronic word processor (we called them video display terminals, or actually, VDTs). Suddenly the fatigue part of writing and rewriting things was all but removed and no more dealing with the clutter of copy paper and going over copy paper with a pencil to edit out all of my many typos and other goofs. It greatly speeded things up — and this was even before the internet.

But in the small-time outfits I worked at mostly it was not all good. You see, I did a lot of editing of special or weekly sections where beside my own copy I used news releases and other material that came in. But this stuff had to be re-keyed into the system. Back in the old days, before computers, typesetters would handle this (I’d just pencil edit stuff).

But once every reporter/editor has his or her own terminal where you could directly input stuff into the system, well guess who had to do the typing (re-keying)? Well nowadays there are electronic scanners and most stuff comes in via email or in some electronic fashion. But the more that can be done by one person, the more that person has to do — that holds true in most work.

But even with all of this, I thought the rapidity that the electronic world offered was a great boon to newspapers. We could be a lot faster with news — damn near keep right up with broadcasters (although comparing real news gathering and reporting to broadcasting is almost like comparing apples and oranges).

Funny or not so funny thing happened. Over the past decade technology has advanced so rapidly in the newspaper industry that it has upgraded itself nearly out of existence. Few over 55 ever read an actual paper newspaper — everyone is on the internet, maybe reading electronic versions of newspapers (not at all the same, really), or just as likely news aggregation sites (just a collection of others’ work), or quasi news sites (kind of point of view inspired – not to be trusted).

I miss newspapers, but I have a computer, and I am not home enough days to make it practical to subscribe to a newspaper, and when I do buy one I am usually disappointed at the dearth of new news or variety and substance of the material presented (all the resources have gone elsewhere since the demand and profit of newspapers has dwindled) and they have gotten a little too pricey per copy (pay more for a lot less).

What I really should have been writing about is cell phones. Over the past decade and a half or so I have seen them in my own life go from a novelty, to a handy thing to have, to a life necessity.

And cell phones, which began as mounted car phones but now are miniscule portable devices, do all kinds of things besides making phone calls. But all I need is something to make that phone call.

And remember when you called a business and could talk to a live person? Now we have automated phone answering systems which begin with: “please listen closely because our menu options have changed. If you want to speak in English press 1…” and then you are taken on a circular ride that often times does not drop you off where you need to be or you get someone’s voicemail. I prefer two-way conversations to voicemail.

Today people are walking around seemingly talking to themselves, but actually talking on their cell phones with the hands-free devices, annoying and confusing everyone around them, except that maybe many others are doing the same thing, and people don’t have time to talk to each other in person because they are on the cell phone checking for messages or on the computer updating their Facebook or Twitter or whatever, and professionals get up in the middle of the night to check their Blackberries to see if anyone wants them. Teenagers, it is said, don’t socialize in person as much as via electronic devices.

The world is so fast-paced with all this labor-saving technology that no one has time for anything, except maybe virtual fun over electronic devices (a slight exaggeration, perhaps).

Whole armies of clerical workers have had their livelihoods wiped out by technology. But we have now found out that the bosses cannot spell and can’t write at all (why are they the bosses?). Technology is even threatening the livelihoods of professionals.

But what prompted me to write anything about this is the piece I heard on radio in which a supposedly respected physicist said that the technology is already available by which a person will wear something like contact lenses and be able to be on the internet and also be able to get all the information on anyone they meet instantly and even an instant translation if they speak a foreign language.

I don’t know. I think that is just technology going further than it needs to. I think that is taking the humanity out of humans. Maybe I am glad one’s lifespan is limited.

I would stop here, but then:

And after I finished most of this ramble, I was sitting in a restroom stall and could not help but overhear (the voice was so loud) a guy in the next stall, obviously talking on his cell phone and then flushing the toilet at the same time — and he was also going on about something about emails, and people commenting on Facebook.

Talking on the phone in the restroom seems strange, but I do recall in pre-cell phone days my late wife worked at a trucking company office where the boss did not want his staff to miss any calls, so he had phones installed in the restroom stalls.

But back to this guy in the stall talking on the cell phone. He was talking about Facebook as if it were a common everyday thing people deal with, such as answering the phone. And I have to realize that this is true, even if it is a novelty and something exotic to me that I have never actually used (but I do blog).

I grew up taking a lot of technology for granted, being in basically the first generation to grow up on television (even if it was black and white). We of course had telephones, but usually only one per house and it was not portable and in some places we lived we actually had party lines where we could not call out or receive calls if others were on the line. The whole family still sat down to dinner, even if sometimes we did want to finish fast to watch our favorite TV program. The only times kids were picked up at school was for emergencies or other unusual events. We almost always lived near our schools, but a lot of my friends had to walk long distances (relatively) to and from school. Most kids (not all) lived with both their real mom and dad and usually dad worked and mom was the housekeeper (and if she did work out of the house, well that was a bonus, giving that family extra disposable income).

Today the norm is for both man and wife (where there are two parents at home) to work and have little to no time for their children and expect the school to be their baby sitter.

But someone from a time earlier would have thought we in my days of growing up lived a fast-paced life and had it easy with all of our conveniences.

But today, a lot of people seem to be moving at a break-neck pace but not really getting anywhere, but they have to keep moving to survive.

Some do not feel they have the time to socialize in person so they do it on Facebook or other social media site. While certainly you can reach a lot more people and a lot faster that way, I have to wonder why it is preferred over to real life encounters. In some ways the morals of society have been perverted by the devil of electronics.

In this consumer-driven economy and technologically-advanced world, people, I think, have an empty and maybe lonely feeling and they are reaching out for something. Maybe in the old days they went to church, to both socialize and be one with God to give some meaning and fill that emptiness. But all that seems quaint now and technology and the search for a perfect life lures us elsewhere.

We’ve come so far we don’t even want to let people die, yet we can hardly afford to keep them alive.

They say technology is the answer to our problems. How much technology do we really need? And when has it gone too far?

I don’t have the answer, except that internet on the contact lenses concerns me.

P.s.

At what point in a blog post too long? Well this one got that way fast, but I often just write things in a basically stream of consciousness manner.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: