resistance is futile

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The earlier post concerning Amazon’s ‘Alexa’ Echo elicited such response and conversation (real, proper ones whilst indulging in real, proper human activity dontchaknow) that it got me thinking about why I, a self-confessed-dyed-in-the-wool luddite, am so resistant to the adoption of time-saving and life-enhancing tech, and I think I know why.

The vast majority of technological advancements have come about as substitutes for an impossible, or certainly a difficult, activity. The printing press allowed fact & fiction to be conveyed without memory or direct diction. The telephone made it possible to communicate, or keep in touch, when a face to face meeting was neither possible nor necessary. The fax machine made it feasible to get legally binding documents under the right nose tout suite. No-one is at home all the time, which created the opportunity for the answering machine. Digital communication, texting & emailing by any other definition, came about as a substitute, or alternative, for vocal communication, when the latter (for whatever reasons) was not on the cards. All these innovations were intended as alternatives, or enhancements, to verbal communication. But then something unpredictable happened. We preferred the substitutes.

It turned out it was easier to make a call than meet the person; easier to send the fax than pop in with the signed contracts; easier to leave a message than face the consequences or hear the response first-hand. So we began leaving messages, which turned into calling when we knew no-one was there; and, in any event, even when we were we wouldn’t answer. Without any vocal inflection, online communication made it even easier to hide. Two-way communication on one-way terms. However, the accepting, nay preferring, of communication without emotional inclusion ultimately means we are investing less, expecting less, accepting less and experiencing less. Those who say less, get used to feeling less. We become less.

In the technological race to do more, see more, ‘say’ more, our lives have become less rich and of less value. I’ve yet to discover a technological advancement that actually encourages any time saved to be put to good use. Back in the day, it was openly accepted that tech change would cost twice as much as expected, take twice as long as planned and deliver half the expected gain. Sounds ‘bout right.

Parents the world over espouse the belief that they want their offspring to be better-off than they have been, to be happier, to be wealthier and to have opportunities they didn’t believe they had. In my experience, children want only two things from their parents: their house when they peg-it and as much of their time as possible in the run-up to that. Do you find yourself all too often involved in the virtual world, incessantly clicking between social networks, wanting to respond to the email that just can’t wait, updating your profile for the ever-adoring audience, awaiting the dopamine-hit of the next ping? The more our digital world is governed by our fingertips, the less it appears connected to our heart-strings.