Technology. A Blessing or Curse?

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One of America’s most quoted writers of the 19th century, William Arthur Ward said, “if you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.”  The truth in that statement is evident throughout the history of the world.  The capacity and capabilities of the human mind are impressive, and sometimes unbelievable.  Imagination creates ideas, which in turn drive inventions that lead to further innovations, and ultimately affect the evolution of our civilization.  Going back in time there are countless examples of how imagination led to major improvements in the quality of life for that generation and beyond.

Inventions like fire and the wheel, to penicillin and electricity, and more recently to the combustion engine and computer, the human race has traveled far since we first stepped foot on this planet 200,000 years ago.  We have dreamed big and accomplished much.  We have brought the world closer together with communication devices beginning with the telephone and television to cell phones and Skype, and now we’re about to see a new device that will combine all our communication and media needs into a watch! Finally, all those nifty gadgets that have only been available to James Bond will now be within reach.

But as we travel the technology highway leveraging new software, hardware, middleware and any other kinds of “wares” are we really evolving or are we digressing as a civilization? Not long ago we took pride in our ability to meet people and interact with them in the most human of ways…through speech. Even before the most popular languages of the world became official, humans communicated with sounds, noises, pictures, and touch. Leaders were identified by their ability to communicate and influence. These skills were learned and perfected over years of varying experiences. And one of the most powerful experiences that develop human beings is our ability to navigate successfully through conflict.

As I look at our children’s generation I wonder how effective they will be able to manage conflict in the future. Personal and professional conflict are challenging enough but world conflict is what I find more troubling. It’s unbelievable to me that as we near the end of 2013, email has become a bit passé.  Texting and instant messaging have become the communication tools of choice for the younger generation. Kids no longer sit on the phone for hours with their friends. In fact, if you have kids, when was the last time your home phone rang with one of your child’s friends on the other line? It’s far more likely that instead of talking live they have chosen to text one another.

I’ve watched good news, bad news, funny news, and everything in between be communicated through texting, and it’s left me wondering…

Human beings are emotional creatures if nothing else. How will we evolve in the future if all of the emotional aspects of our lives are synthesized into an electronic communication? Do we risk becoming desensitized? Where will this generation, and the next, find joy? What will cause their pain? As they become accustomed to receiving bad news from a device versus another human won’t they in fact become numb to bad news? How will they develop the coping skills required to grow and develop? Usually those skills come from interacting with other people by making a connection with one of our senses. If you can’t see who you are dealing with, nor can you hear them, or touch them how will those skills be learned. Perhaps they won’t.

Communication devices and tools most certainly serve a purpose. However, I would suggest that for life’s most important events, put the device down and engage the old-fashioned way…with speech, with sight, with human connection. Not only is this way more fulfilling emotionally but it allows our innate skills, our instincts, to flourish and continue to developing.

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