30 January 2024

Technology - improvement or hindrance?

I sometimes think modern technology, such as computers and the internet can be a double-edged sword. I am all for progress, after all, without it, we'd all still be wearing sabre-tooth tiger cloaks and be killing woolly mammoths for our supper. But I guess through every generation of progress there have been pros and cons. Take the industrial revolution. It took production output to the next level for factory and mill owners, but at the cost of exploiting their workers. I feel today with the internet we face advantages and disadvantages of different kinds.

Computers, mobile phones and the internet have drastically changed the world we live in. At the touch of keypad we can look up answers to any of our questions in a heartbeat (assuming we have good broadband connections). We can instantly convert dollars to pounds, look up US presidents at the time of Queen Victoria, the next train from London to Edinburgh, the best hotels in Sydney, the weather in Guatemala or get a supermarket delivery. We can send emails, attend meetings from home, glance at our bank accounts or arrange bank transfers. We can reduce the wastage of paper (and thus save the planet) by having online accounts for utilities and other companies we deal with, rather than get hard paper copies sent to us through the post. We can "visit a street" on the other side of the world and see what it looks like.  There are so many more advantages.

BUT. There has to be a but. There is a lot to be said against it. For starters what happens when there is poor or no broadband connection and you cannot research something online or send an email? What happens when you have no mobile phone signal and cannot contact someone urgently to tell them you are going to be late or not show for a meeting with them? What happens if your computer dies or your mobile smashes on the ground and you cannot transfer money or receive online paperwork until you can fork out for another computer or mobile? What if you mis-type an email address and the person you are targeting doesn't even get your message or some stranger finds out things about you?

I have noticed with the younger generation (I am not naming names, dear daughter of mine), that they tend to religiously contact colleagues by email and then wonder why they get no reply for days or weeks on end. Where as I would pick up the phone, dial and get my answer there and then. I am advised that NOBODY does phone calls these days. It's all done by email. Similarly, when seeking a quote for work to be done or goods to be provided, an online request form is de rigeur. Again, I would pick up the phone, dial and ask what they charge!!

I am afraid I still insist on bills being sent to me, rather than having online copies, as I always worry, if my computer goes down or dies, I won't have anything to rely on.  I am sure recycling paper will still save the planet, given that we have already chopped down millions of trees and already have a load of paper hanging around waiting to be recycled. I do have an online bank account - it seems almost impossible not to these days, but I have to have 100% of my wits about me not to be scammed in a moment of sleepy lack of concentration, when I receive a phone call from a stranger purporting to be from Amazon telling me I have just paid £4,000 and do I want to stop this purchase and hand over my bank details.

Another disadvantage of the internet is social media and the way it can put stress on children's lives. Once kids were bullied at school but it stopped at the school gates. Now, with mobile phones, kids are getting bullied round the clock, even as they're turning out the bedside light at night. On the plus side, CCTV cameras,  Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and Face Recognition cameras can fight crime and solve complex cases in much shorter times.

I sit on the fence on this one. There are good points and bad points. What say you?


Tasker Dunham said...

The internet and computers have generated phenomenal wealth and could have made all our lives easier. More than 40 years ago there were discussions about how people would spend their time if they only had to work a couple of days a week and retire at 50, and about how the wealth should be shared out in a fair society. What has actually happened is that the wealth is being selfishly accumulated by powerful corporations and individuals, inflation soaks up any excess, and people spend their time using social media and so on to generate even more wealth via advertising and the rubbish products it makes them buy.

Lynne said...

Without doubt technology has improved so many things but the reality is technology is neutral it’s what people do with it and the genie is out of the bottle I feel for good or bad.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

I say you are right. Modern technology can indeed be a double-edged sword. I remember in my last school which became heavily reliant on interactive whiteboards that when the computer network failed many younger teachers had no idea how to put an off-the-cuff lesson together to fill the space left behind. Also, I would say this - the way that humans had evolved - were our brains and our emotions really ready to cope with the explosions of possibilities that new technology has delivered? WE may be out of synch with it. There's a lot to be said for a simpler life - not knowing too much.