Is adapting to new technology changing humans fundamentally? – Jan 12, 2012

This is the day I was waiting for and was wondering how far down my blogging project (Project 365) this would happen! Day 12 nearly spelt the end for my resolution, as my Internet connection refused to work. Was nearly giving up and feeling pretty miserable when, on the umpteenth reboot of the modem, it has started working feebly once again!

Our urban lives have become so dependent on technology, especially mobile phones, computers and the Internet, that it is impossible to imagine what life was before! I am pretty tech-dumb and have taken long to adapt to each new technology change. Today, when I am able to figure out a cellphone menu, its only because these devices have become inseparable from us and literally rule our lives.

So does technology only mean that we do things faster and more easily, or does it signify a deeper shift in the way we think, learn, experience and communicate? Up until recently, I had the more conservative, former view. But as I watch my children effortlessly navigate an ipad, I am changing my views on this.

Not so long ago, I read an interview with a gaming technology expert who talked about how gaming, if used correctly, can help in skill development, education, enhancing reflexes, etc. Then, I went blah! Today, I think there might be something to it.

Sam Pitroda, at a curtain raiser to the India Urban Conference organized by Janaagraha, Yale University and IIHS in November 2011, spoke about our inability to adapt to the mind blowing changing that are taking place in technology. Life no longer has to be the way we have practiced it for so long, but since human nature is to resist change, we continue to live life in the same vein. He gave the example of how much energy was wasted traveling to face-to-face business meetings and how much more efficient it would be to do these by teleconference. In the past few years, I have been on the editorial team of an international publication and have used Skype innumerable times to conduct meetings and interviews. Since I have crossed the invisible line of acceptance in this specific context, I didn’t find his suggestion strange. Many in the room sniggered, though!

My concern is with battling with the mental acceptance of technology change as an inevitable reality that we constantly need to adapt to. Is it crazy to lead your entire social life on social networking sites? We all thought so a few years ago, but many of us are actually able to have meaningful conversations with dear long-lost friends and family only because we DO live our lives on FB!

As a parent, its doubly confusing. I have total screen-time limits for my kids per day, which means computer+ipad+TV+cellphone. Right now, its an hour for holidays and half an hour for weekdays and these are increasing as they grow older. Is this too conventional, based on the thinking that staring at a screen is bad for your eyes, that watching mind numbing programming is killing your brain cells? Already, interactive software on ipads and computers (and even TV!) have blurred the lines terribly!

Technology will continue to blur the lines, challenge our business-as-usual attitude, create excitement and shape our behavior. Will it also impact deeper things like our value systems, the depth of our relationships, the tenor of our emotions?


About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on January 12, 2012, in Personal and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I like this post–for obvious reasons. What I find particularly interesting is that I used to think of technology as an enabler. That man will do what man will do, the tools will change. For instance, for the longest time, there were no cyber laws–if a person was stalking you online, he got sued for stalking, doesn’t matter where he did it. But it’s ironic that I should think so, when I have seen technology change behaviour patterns and lifestyles first-hand. Facebook, Twitter, etc are designed to make us want to spill our guts to the world at large, even if some of us maybe otherwise very private, reticent people.
    And it takes someone who’s not looking at technology but to whom technology is happening (=you) to understand its changing role in our lives.

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