Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Speed of Change

Straighten Up And Fly Wright

Many times it’s the speed of change that causes technology to be disruptive. During the life span of Charles Ingalls the world got a lot smaller with the spread of rail roads and the invention of the telegraph and later telephone. But that change took an entire lifetime. This was certainly faster than previous ages when disruptive changes took place over centuries, but still slow enough to be manageable. Now think of the pace of change since his death. A few years after he died the first airplane flies. Nearly 40 years later atomic bombs are destroying entire cities. Another 30 years later man is walking on the moon. Now compare even that rapid change to the mind blowing changes of the last 10-20 years. Cloning, the human genome is mapped, the internet becomes a ubiquitous fixture in every home and business, cyber infinitum.

The exponential rate of change has made it difficult if not impossible to keep up with. Indeed it seems almost impossible to make any long term plans because everything changes in just a few years. For me the rate of change in computer technology makes it very difficult to keep my skills up to date. At this point I am beginning to doubt the value of any official education or even certifications. By the time someone leaves school with his CS degree the technology has moved on. For society as a whole it is likewise bewildering. Parents and children are having to deal with previously unknown challenges and dangers such as cyber bullying and sexting. Lawmakers are struggling to catch up with new ways of conduction business or committing crimes. There simply isn’t enough time to assimilate to the change or even to perceive its effects. Before you even understand what’s happening you are suffering the consequences.

Technology has made life too complicated. Too filled with having to watch your back and protect yourself from new ways of being scammed. Too burdened with having to filter out what's really important from all the noise. That uncertainty and the anxiety it creates is why I would trade all these gadgets and conveniences for a little house on the prairie. 

For more about the pace of technology check out this article: Is Technology Moving Too Fast?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Turn Off, Tune Out, Unplug

The Plugged in Family

Technology has transformed life in ways that are detrimental to human relationships. According to a New York Times article, conversation is a dying skill. Today its not uncommon to see people who are physically together yet mentally and emotionally worlds away. Many of the younger generation who grew up with email, cell phones and social networking are not even learning to communicate properly or interact with other people face to face.

Another declining activity is deep thought and reflection. After all how can you reflect on your own thoughts and sort through them if you're constantly plugged in? How many people under the age of 30 wake up and put on their ipod, text or tweet, listen to the radio in the car on the way to work or school, answer email and text messages all day long, come home and spend the evening on social networking sites, playing video games or watching TV. The entire day they are plugged into some form of media without a solitary thought to themselves. Sometimes you'll even see them get nervous if there's nothing to plug into. As a case in point I took my son and his friend on a hike and his friend could not put down his ipod. I kept trying to have a conversation with him and all I got was, "HUH? WHAT? "

Solitude, time with just your thoughts alone, is essential to personally growth. That's the time when you sort out your thoughts, feelings and ideas. It’s the time when you reflect on who you are, what you really want and where you're going. If you never take that walk without the ipod and the cell phone your mind will scarcely have the chance to hear your own voice. Maybe that’s why there’s so much group think. Everyone is plugged into the collective like a Borg drone.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Its All in How You Use It

No Nukes On the Prarie

To clarify my previous post. Its generally not technology that's the problem. Its how its used. The classic example is nuclear fission. It has the potential to create value in the way of cheep energy, medical advances and even further our understanding of nature at the quantum level. These uses of nuclear technology obviously can increase our standard of living, extend our life and even satisfy our deepest curiosities. But it also brings with it the specter of instant annihilation and the poisoning of vital resources.

A less extreme example is email. Its great to be able to send data, pictures, video, audio, etc instantly to friends and relatives who may live thousands of miles away for virtually no cost. But how many of us feel chained to a device feeling the need to respond to messages ASAP. Often others expect us to be available and respond quickly even becoming perturbed if we don't. Like wise with cell phones whether using voice or texting many will expect us to be available 24/7. That's something the Ingalls never had to worry about.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What Is a Technoluddite?

Technoluddite [tek-no-luhd-ahyt] -  for this blog means a technologist that longs for a simpler life.

I make a very comfortable living using and even creating technology. Technology can be impressive. It can make somethings easier and is sometimes entertaining or even life saving, but all things considered I think I'd be happier living like Charles Ingalls. For every positive thing technology does it creates multiple problems and in the aggregate it is a detriment to quality of life.