Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Mind the Gap – Is our use of Technology an aid to living or clever distraction?

Mike Wright looks toward our possible future: will it be a happy one or a ‘dystopian’ one?

I have my concerns about Technology. However, my concerns are not the kind that all centre around a dystopian vision in which computers have become sentient and made us all slaves, where memory foam remembers things we wish to forget or where self-service checkouts learn to expect the unexpected items in the baggage area.

Instead, my concerns are about how far today’s Technology, in the form of Social Media, may remove us to a realm of thought and away from a world of experience. Actually, it’s not really Technology itself I have concerns about but rather how we use it. A wise man once remarked that ‘one of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between man and nature shall not be broken’. My question is then whether, a gap (between man and nature) is being formed - and if so, what can we do to restore the bond?

My concern stems from the multiple situations where I have found myself playing ‘gooseberry’ to a friend and their Facebook page. Or where I find that a smile - as evidence that I like what they have said - is insufficient validation of a statement, when measured against a ‘thumbs up’ icon being clicked. Or again, when a memory of being present at an event (such as, perhaps, meeting for coffee) is deemed untrustworthy, unless supported with an evidential group ‘selfie’.

In response, I find myself asking whether we can ever truly live in the moment if we are constantly trying to capture and relive it. And as the present moment is the only thing we can ever truly experience, it seems infinitely important to me that we don’t lose our only connection with reality through interaction with a virtual representation of it.

So, the dystopian future in which we have become slaves to computers does not seem all that distant when I reflect on how much time we spend relying on them for the purpose of work, interaction and entertainment. Is our complicity in playing Candy Crush Saga for seven hours a day in fact a symptom of Stockholm Syndrome in the digital age? Is our nature as a Human Being, evolving into that of a Human Thinking?

Perhaps this has all been a bit too one-sided. After all, I am writing these very words using the fruits of Technology and they are to be published and read exclusively through the medium of the Internet. On a practical level, we can’t function without Technology. I suppose the key consideration is whether our use of Technology is an aid to living or acts as a distraction that keeps us from living.

And in this regard, happiness is always the method of measure. I can’t help feeling that less time spent interacting in cyber space would mean a restoration of the bond between ‘(wo)man and nature’ and a rediscovery of our own nature as truly living beings.

An increase in the amount of time we spend having real, shared experiences may also go some way in restoring the sense of community and the common bond that has apparently been lost as an exclusive quality that only ‘the good old days’ possessed. Who knows?

If at this point of reading you feel the desire to break the connection of thought, and instead wish to wander into the world of experience, I encourage you to log off and rekindle your relationship with reality for a while!

And remember - mind the gap!

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