The Technology Trade-off

technology tradeoffSomething that seems to be disappearing from our culture is the ability to reflect. I don’t mean that in a philosophical sense necessarily. Given that we are in the age of technology and social media apps, and are constantly being exposed to new ways of wasting time seamlessly,  it occurs to me that something very valuable and yet easily overlooked will be traded off. We can be sure that a more interconnected world could be vastly rewarding in many ways, including keeping us mentally active and socially involved.

There are obvious benefits from this new way of living, and there are also many consequences that are quite obvious. One is where we choose to give more attention to our phones than to people during social settings. The other is the obvious health drawback due to physical inactivity. This thought is not about those things, but of something a little more subtle.  A period  of calamity and not being preoccupied with something in the palm of our hands is constantly being shortened with time, and with it the ability to introspect, analyze, and use our creativity.

Porn websites render the practice of imagination less important, social media websites render the art of proper, genuine conversation less necessary. These may be direct consequences, but another perhaps more important concern is worth thinking about. The time being spent on the internet is vastly shortening the amount of time to be unoccupied, free, and mentally inactive and it is precisely those moments that enable us to think, to question, and to create. Will there come a time when those moments are not only drastically reduced, but removed completely? Where even taking a shower, or driving our car, or jogging on a track involves a technological method of mental preoccupation?

It does not seem unlikely, given the increase in internet use, and smart-phone dependency.  Imagining such a place where most people simply do not have time to reflect, while only a few do directly conveys a very dull picture of our future. Since the number of people who come up with creative ideas that might improve the quality of life decreases as a result of the declining amount of people who have the time to come up with those ideas, the quality of our future inventions will probably decline.

It can be argued that creative people would by their very nature continue being creative, regardless of the distractions available to them. However, that would be overseeing the fact that many ideas do spring by accident, by people who did not intend on inventing them. There is also the likely possibility that self-criticism and reflection would be activities that were a thing of the past. What kind of society would we be if we lost the ability to examine our own flaws, and work on bettering ourselves? If people agree with me, and acknowledge that there might be a problem. Then perhaps the next step is to think about how something like this can be avoided. It might help if we put away our laptops, tablets, and smart phones for a second though.

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Flags

Flags
I was driving in my car one night, and was surprised to see 8 or 9 cars in front of me with young teens raising German flags while wearing their jerseys proudly and with so much passion.

In Lebanon, it is not uncommon to see supporters of other nations, especially Brazil or Germany. These fans parade around their towns or cities to demonstrate their passion for a particular country. I shouldn’t have been surprised since growing up in Lebanon had taught me to at one point embrace the world cup culture, and even be a part of it.

While hearing the constant beeping and yelling from my car, a thought occurred to me. There was a strange resemblance between those young, enthusiastic football supporters and those who with just as much passion would raise flags of their particular political group. The same look on their faces, the same blind passion, and the same unmistakable pride did not fill me with joy or enthusiasm, but rather depressed me.

What I saw in front of me was something I believed to be very wrong about this country. Blind passion and lack of critical thinking are the hallmarks of our problems, and while it is much more preferable to see people waving flags for sporting reasons rather than political ones, it is still disheartening to know that something about being Lebanese causes us to return to our tribal roots.

I’m not saying that rooting for a country is bad. I have been a fan of Italy for over 12 years, and I support them very passionately. But I do so quietly, and silently, without the need to display it to everyone I know. It would be much better, I think, if we practiced democracy in the same way in Lebanon.

Back off the wall

back ofIn many times during our lives,  we will inevitably run into periods where our backs are against the wall. It is when we feel there is no more room for error.  And in many cases,  we find reserves of energy that we didn’t know existed.  We push the limits of our perseverance and patience.

Then then are other times. These are moments when we are momentarily off the wall and have the freedom and time to manage our resources as well as we can.  For most people,  this is not a productive time. It usually leads to carelessness,  and complacency.  Procrastination reigns supreme and planning becomes less effective.

In these two opposite circumstances, one is usually thought of as being better than the other.  Now some people panic under pressure,  and prefer to live in such a way where the ‘back against the wall’ situation never arises.  Some of these people are successful at doing this but my main interest here is in people who fail at it.  As in,  the people who cannot perform unless under pressure.

Can these people, who are not adept planners given ample time and minimal pressure,  change their habits?  Or are they better off getting themselves against the wall again,  and taking off from there?