One day on a brisk late autumn afternoon I got caught up in a revealing discussion with a friend of mine about our over-reliance on technology in general. He made some valid points as we unpacked the pros and cons of the use technology in the 21st century.
Walking back home two hours later, through the bush and wilderness, I took out my Iphone, instead of enjoying the magnificent view before me, to check my Facebook. It is a bit of a contradiction isn’t it? I find myself smiling to myself as my friend’s words ring true to me. “We are walking in time and space tied to a loom” he says to me. “Here I am” he draws an analogy “As a child laborer working in Manchester tied to a loom! Tied to a loom!” He knocks his fists on his laptop “Ten hours a day. We do this as lightly and as unconditionally as it was done three hundred years ago.”
“This..” he points again to his laptop “Has control over the user, but it is seen the other way round. The user intimates that it has control over it. You are its bitch. You are its animal because you have delivered its inanimate to it.”
Reflecting back on our conversation I find myself smiling because his analysis was right in every way. Are we then, tied to a loom, as he tells me? Is the loom, the one my friend talked about a little bit more sophisticated? Where it is used for entertainment purposes but is still disguised as a loom?
I think it is.
The growth of new technologies in the 21st century has been fast paced and static. Since the eighteenth century we have seen new technological advancements make its way in the Western world. A technological invention or advancement has its consequence upon society; it creates social upheavals. As a result, an upheaval in turn impacts and changes society forever! We have seen examples of technological inventions time and time again throughout history which as result impacted on society by creating social upheavals.
Let’s look at a few examples.
One example was the invention of the starter motor in 1911. The starter motor allowed for anyone to drive, if anyone could drive then anyone could shop, which meant that anyone could go to work. A single invention changed the entire world.
The starter motor was one of the most profound discoveries of the 20th century. It allowed for both men and women to drive cars. If men and women started to drive cars due to the invention of starter motors, highways were consequently made, if one has highways being made, one has freeways, thus 40% of the city is turned over to the roads. A single invention changes the nature of the urban landscape forever and that is only one invention.
Another example of a social upheaval (one of my favorite eras of study) was the 1960s and 70s. When people came back from the Second World War there was no war therefore production was aimed at goods for people to consume, thus, giving the birth of “the consumption society” in which we are in now.
The 1950s was a period of magic! People had everything. There was endless land, everyone drove a car, everyone got a quarter archers, everyone had a job, and everyone was in the sunshine playing footy. It was magic! Magic! Yet there were social problems, women had no income and they had no reproductive rights over their own bodies. As soon as they did have income and reproductive rights it created another social upheaval-therefore you got the 1960s-1970s.
We are on to our third industrial revolution: Information technology. Therefore another social upheaval! When information technology was introduced people thought it was a panacea! It was a miracle! It was going to solve everyone’s problems! But did it?
Computers direct one’s attention for endless amounts of time, it creates more than it solves, as a result we have problems befalling the user-we become addicted to it. We become addicted to using the computer-we check it for entertainment purposes,we find ourselves plastered on our computer screens 24/7.
How many times do we find ourselves constantly checking our phones, even if we are in the company of good friends? How many times a day do we have to check our emails? How many times do we see people immersed in their Iphones or computer screens?
I once saw a Chinese tourist walking down at beautiful touristy spot, but she was dabbling on her phone, then as she walked, she bumped into the lamppost looks up for second then immerses herself back to dabbling with her phone. The girl could have been anywhere in the world, and it didn’t make a difference to her; she could have fallen into the water and not noticed, yet her phone had her attention! It demanded it.
We are addicted to it to technology as an end to itself. It becomes a fetish of the highest order and our world is thrown into imbalance. Does that sound healthy? I don’t think so. Are we indeed tied to a loom as my friend claims it does? I believe so.
If I were to go offline completely would that make me out of sequence or out of sync with the technology? I think for us not to be tied to the loom it would be best for us to information technology selectively by careful choice of time.