We have become tools of our tools
I miss the days you could push a friend into a pool without having to worry about their cell phone, but times have changed along with technology. Earlier this month I sent out an e-mail survey to two hundred people asking them to identify all the gizmos and gadgets they use on a regular basis.
One question asked: “How many electronics devices do you bring with you as you leave the house?” From those who responded 48 per cent said one electronic device, 30 per cent said two devices, 18 per cent carried three or more and the remaining four per cent carried none at all. A further breakdown revealed 96 per cent of respondents brought a cell phone, 21 per cent brought an mp3 player, 20 per cent brought a laptop computer, 16 per cent brought a camera, 11 per cent brought a tablet, leaving 15 per cent of respondents who identified other miscellaneous electronics. One noteworthy device that garnered eight per cent, although I would have thought this figure to be much higher was a remote car starter!
The results of this non-scientific survey are generally what I expected, but the figure that intrigued me the most was the four per cent of respondents who carried no electronic devices whatsoever. Have you ever heard someone say, “I feel naked without my phone”? I can certainly relate to that expression. I suspect that this four per cent figure would have been a lot higher ten years ago and even more so twenty years ago. Again, not a surprising assumption given that the relationship between man and machine has become in a way paternal. Like a father to his growing child, over the decades we have constantly been feeding technology with spoonfulls of necessity.
I do imagine though, that there may come a time when technology will exceed the ability of men and we may, in essence, become tools of our tools. Omar Bradley said it best, “If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.” It’s kind of a scary thought. It reminds me of the movie: Rise of the Machines, and although some of the plot seemed too futuristic and farfetched, there was also a time when the entire educated world uniformly believed that man could not travel faster than the speed of sound. Boy, were we wrong!
Random Factoid: Did you know that the cracking of the whip is actually a mini sonic boom created as the tip of the whip exceeds the sound barrier? Moving on…
I’m a big fan of technology and I believe that we should continue to advance in our knowledge and understanding of how we can use it to better our lives. Whether it’s the pacemaker that regulates heart rhythm, the creation of high-speed internet access in northern communities or the prosthetics that allow wounded soldiers the ability to walk once more, we are undoubtedly the benefactors of advancing technology. It has brought many things once considered fantasy and imagination into the realm of the real and tangible.
One healthy way to look at technology is like seeing life through a high-powered telescope. Yes, you can see far away with crystal clear clarity and artificially enhanced vision, but you can only see with one eye at a time. Viewing life through both eyes represents the threshold where technology stops and conscious thought begins, a place where only humanity in all its glorious imperfections can flourish. At the end of the day, we just have to make sure we remain the masters of our own devices and if I can recall, I believe there’s an app for that!
“The real problem is not whether machines think, but whether men do” – B. F. Skinner