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.