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Are We Too Dependent On Technology?


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#1 Farming guy

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Posted 21 January 2016 - 06:03 PM

Does anyone else ever feel that we have become too dependent on technology?

 

I don't travel often, but when I go someplace, I enjoy navigating without the use of anything more than a map. Sometimes I do arithmetic without a calculator.  I will even lift ridiculously heavy things, just to make sure I still can.

 

Anyone else have similar feelings about technology?



#2 CraigD

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Posted 23 January 2016 - 12:40 PM

A few approaches to this question occur to me.

One is to ask “do I rely on a tool that I’d be in serious trouble if it failed?” A prime example is sailing to Bermuda with no means of navigation other than a handheld GPS receiver. I actually had a friend planning to do this, ‘til I pointed out to him that if the nice little gadget got just a bit of salt water though a seal, or he simply lost it overboard, he’d likely miss the islands and wind up in the middle of the Atlantic. Though you’d likely survive – all you have to do is sail east ‘til you hit America – the prospect was enough for my friend to learn enough old-fashioned celestial navigation to get by without GPS.

Then there are tools and systems we’d be in dreadful trouble without, where we don’t have easy ways to mitigate the danger. The main ones that come to my mind are food and water. I live not far from a source of good creek water, so could get by with a daily trip to it, if trucks stopped bring food to stores, I’d be in trouble. I’m in a dense suburb – way too many people for our cultivatable land. If the system transporting food from farm to packager to store failed, most of us would have to leave, or we’d all starve.

These scenarios are remote, though – most of us don’t sail out of sight of land much, and our food supply systems seem in little imminent danger of collapse. This leaves the question “do I use tools in a way that somehow reduces the quality of my life?”

Getting somewhere by car using a GPS is easy. I do it, often even to get to places I know. I worry, though, that my sense of position and direction is atrophying. Before GPS, you had to have a key eye for landmarks, a good sense of distance traveled and position on a mental map to navigate “by feel”. With GPS, you just follow directions in a mindless, practically robotic manner. I feel impoverished. Of course, I can just not use GPS, but then I’ll occasionally mess up a waste time and gas, and feel silly for not using an available tool. A problem of balance.

I love math, and computers, but the superhuman calculating ability of the latter make me lazy at the former. Rather than work out exact solutions to problems, I tend to write programs to find approximate solutions using brute force computing. Most math enthusiasts and professionals do this. I often wonder if we’re somehow made lazy and spoiled by this in a way that mathematicians of past centuries were not – if computers are making us smarter in some ways, but stupider in others. Another problem of balance.

#3 Farming guy

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Posted 23 January 2016 - 05:57 PM


These scenarios are remote, though – most of us don’t sail out of sight of land much, and our food supply systems seem in little imminent danger of collapse. 
.
 

These scenarios may not be so remote we all think.  Farm numbers are in decline, and, in the United States, we are relying very heavily on migrant labor to keep food cheap.  Our food processing is done by a handful of companies in a handful of locations, so our food supply is becoming more vulnerable.  Our electric grid has been put on a mostly centrally controlled system vulnerable to cyber-attack and electromagnetic pulses.   Our infrastructure is crumbling faster than it is being repaired, and our population is largely under educated.  Too  few people even have a vague idea as to how our technologies function, and even fewer have much capacity to get by without.

 

Don't get me wrong, I love the technology we use on the farm, but experience has taught me to always have a backup plan.  We keep our older, simpler technology on standby.


Edited by Farming guy, 23 January 2016 - 05:59 PM.


#4 Mariel33

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Posted 03 November 2016 - 02:38 PM

I dislike technology letting people vote; if people are to have elections, they should walk or make a physical journey to their polling station.



#5 Sammy

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Posted 05 December 2016 - 10:30 AM

I think technology can have as big of a toll on you as you like really. If living in a city, it is obviously more difficult to become self sufficient than it would be in the countryside, but in some places there are many doing exactly this, and successfully so! There's an entire movement now of both individuals and organisations who are taking things back to the roots with the aim of providing for themselves. There are lots of workshops and classes helping people to do so.

 

It's easy to do your own bit so that you're comfortable with how much you rely or don't rely on technology. Simple and enjoyable acts like knitting your own jumper to wear, grow your own fruit and veg on your apartment balcony, or ride your bike to work. Try some of these and maybe you'll feel less helpless? And check this out for some ideas.


Edited by Sammy, 05 December 2016 - 10:31 AM.


#6 DrKrettin

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 10:54 AM

Technology can be used and it can be abused. When I see the checkout girl in the supermarket reach for her calculator to find the price of 10 cans of beer at 90 cents per can, then calculate the change from €10 euros, then I know that something is wrong.

 

But there are more subtle disadvantages. One which affects me is the immediate availability of information. There was a time when learning a language and coming across an unknown word, I would have to reach for the heavy dictionary, thumb through the pages, find the word, then replace the dictionary. Doing this on a difficult text was quite a chore, so I would make sure that I would only ever look up a word once because I would remember it. Now, dictionaries are on-line and so easy to consult that the incentive to memorize has evaporated. I feel brain-dead, I am no longer able to remember anything.

 

Another disadvantage is the ease of communication, and the result is a ton of digital crap every day, instead of one or two nice letters. And Faecebook. And overload of information about the insanity on the world, such as Trump. `[/end rant]



#7 Turtle

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 04:23 PM

Technology is as technology does. Same for whining. ;) I am reminded of how the churchies condemned Benjamin Franklin's lightning rod, preferring the good old days when bell ringers were regularly and justly fried to a frizzle in thunderstorms whilst doing the good Lord's work and the churches often burned in the bargain. Good times. :weather_storm:



#8 LaurieAG

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 07:04 PM

A few approaches to this question occur to me.

One is to ask “do I rely on a tool that I’d be in serious trouble if it failed?” A prime example is sailing to Bermuda with no means of navigation other than a handheld GPS receiver. I actually had a friend planning to do this, ‘til I pointed out to him that if the nice little gadget got just a bit of salt water though a seal, or he simply lost it overboard, he’d likely miss the islands and wind up in the middle of the Atlantic. Though you’d likely survive – all you have to do is sail east ‘til you hit America – the prospect was enough for my friend to learn enough old-fashioned celestial navigation to get by without GPS.

 

That brings back old memories Craig. In the mid to late 70's my father taught celestial navigation at a college and produced and sold videos (VHS & Beta) which enabled people to learn how to correctly use a sextant at home. He supplied organised work sheets and, in the early 80's, wrote a cassette based program on a Commodore VIC 20 to help people with the calculations. Once you learned you didn't really need the computer but you would still be in the same boat as above if you lost your sextant or book of lookup tables over the side. :)



#9 Sammy

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Posted 08 December 2016 - 04:08 AM

When I see the checkout girl in the supermarket reach for her calculator to find the price of 10 cans of beer at 90 cents per can, then calculate the change from €10 euros, then I know that something is wrong.

 

I don't think this is necessarily abusing technology? Peoples brains work in different ways and to struggle with maths and therefore require a smartphone calculator/an oldschool calculator/a piece of paper and pen/a tree and a stone does not necessarily mean we're abusing technology?

 

 

But there are more subtle disadvantages. One which affects me is the immediate availability of information. There was a time when learning a language and coming across an unknown word, I would have to reach for the heavy dictionary, thumb through the pages, find the word, then replace the dictionary. Doing this on a difficult text was quite a chore, so I would make sure that I would only ever look up a word once because I would remember it. Now, dictionaries are on-line and so easy to consult that the incentive to memorize has evaporated. I feel brain-dead, I am no longer able to remember anything.

 

This definitely disappoints me too. The element of surprise, wonder and exploration has been erradicated with our current state of instant gratification. However, amongst a few friends of mine and myself, we have a new rule: in a conversation we are not allowed to look up the answer on our smartphones until 24 hours afterwards - this not only ensures that we remember our important/meaningful conversations, but also that we let our imaginations wander for a bit before our curiosity is whetted by the answer.

Try it!

 

Also, speaking of technology, advancements and the future, has anyone watched Westworld yet? It's not incredible but an interesting concept all the same - www.imdb.com/title/tt0475784/


Edited by Sammy, 08 December 2016 - 04:10 AM.


#10 DrKrettin

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Posted 08 December 2016 - 09:12 AM

I don't think this is necessarily abusing technology? Peoples brains work in different ways and to struggle with maths and therefore require a smartphone calculator/an oldschool calculator/a piece of paper and pen/a tree and a stone does not necessarily mean we're abusing technology?

 

I was citing the case of a supermarket checkout job. If the person is incapable of multiplying 90 cents by 10 without resorting to a calculator, perhaps they should be doing something else unconnected with money.



#11 HydrogenBond

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Posted 09 December 2016 - 06:55 AM

Technology helps to extend human capacities. This is useful but it can come with a price; atrophy in natural capacity. For example, say you had a robotic suit that walks for you. You simply put the robot suit on, and it can walk all day long. This can extend our ability to walk, however, the muscles, normally used for walking will atrophy, since they don't have to work very much. If the suit was to fail, people would be crawling, having been make weaker, by the suit.  The prosthesis makes us appear to be more on the surface, while making us less, underneath. 

 

If you look at smart phones, most 2-3 year olds can operate these like a pro. It looks very modern and sophisticated on the surface, but in reality it only requires the brain power of a small child to do this. The result is even dumb people can look smart on a smart phone; surface illusion. This is useful. However, since this does not require much in the way of brain power, the minds of smart people can atrophy, to that of a child. If you take away the phone of an adult; lost or broken, there is a panic attack, since one is only able to crawl without it. 

 

In my opinion, we should have a two path education, where we take advantage of technology to extend humans. But we also teach the old fashion skills so the brain and body is not going backwards; 2-3 years old. Some days you can wear and practice with the robotic suit; run the marathon, and on the next day you take off th suit and run a 10K loop the old fashion way. This way the outside and inside grow together. 

 

If the outside grows, while the inside shrinks, even dumb machines will appear smarter to atrophied morons. The worst walking robot suit can appear state of the art if all you can do is crawl. Cultures reach the tipping point, to soon, leading to disaster. If we have dumb machines leading even dumber and dependent humans, this is not optimized. If the inside grows, we will expect more from the machines before we give up control. 



#12 DrKrettin

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Posted 09 December 2016 - 07:26 AM

Let's take an example of a technical advance - a remote control for the television. It has obvious advantages, especially for the infirm or if you have broken your leg. But then it is so easy to change channels that you start channel-hopping, and you finish up never really concentrating on anything. Then, the TV channels have to synchronize their adverts, to stop people switching to another channel just to avoid them. That has the ridiculous result that the adverts kick in at the most inappropriate times, like in the middle of a car chase or a seduction scene, destroying any dramatic effect.

 

The net effect of the remote control is a deterioration in viewing experience with the advantage that you can become a couch potato. In the good old days, getting up to change the channel was the only exercise most people got. Now they get to exercise just one finger. However, living in a country with about 20 channels of excruciating rubbish, none of this really matters.



#13 billvon

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Posted 12 December 2016 - 04:25 PM

Let's take an example of a technical advance - a remote control for the television. It has obvious advantages, especially for the infirm or if you have broken your leg. But then it is so easy to change channels that you start channel-hopping, and you finish up never really concentrating on anything. Then, the TV channels have to synchronize their adverts, to stop people switching to another channel just to avoid them. That has the ridiculous result that the adverts kick in at the most inappropriate times, like in the middle of a car chase or a seduction scene, destroying any dramatic effect.

 

The net effect of the remote control is a deterioration in viewing experience with the advantage that you can become a couch potato. In the good old days, getting up to change the channel was the only exercise most people got. Now they get to exercise just one finger. However, living in a country with about 20 channels of excruciating rubbish, none of this really matters.

That seems like a pretty silly conclusion.  You could as easily say that color TV's caused a deterioration in viewing experience (less imagination needed) and that TV's greatly deteriorated the experience to begin with (wouldn't meet people at the movie theater.)  Of course movies did the same thing - no more meeting the cast of the theatrical production you went to see.

 

But then again the availability of small media players, combined with video projectors and cheap to free video material, can bring people together - free movie nights! - and solidify family bonds and communities.  It all depends on how you use them.

 

Wishing for the olden days as a method to force social interaction (or physical activity, or community structure, or 'viewing experience') is, to me, missing the point.  Viewing experiences today are vastly superior to those of decades past; how we choose to use it, of course, is up to us.



#14 HydrogenBond

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Posted 24 December 2016 - 07:57 AM

In the early days of radio, movies and TV, the special affects and staging were very crude and corny. With technology, computer simulation, and magic tricks, the special affects are much better.

 

What has been lost is the need for the imagination to extrapolate the corny old special affects into a more convincing scenario. Now you don't need as much imagination. Rather you become a more passive audience, reacting to TV stimulus, as though this comes from reality. Back in the day, you knew this was fake and had to add imagination to make it appear more real. Now, it appears more real, all by itself.  

 

The downside of this is some people can no longer differentiate reality from fantasy, since both appear to passive audiences via external stimulus, while requiring little in the way of imagination. The older movies, by involving imagination, helped people make a distinction between reality and fantasy, since fantasy needed an active imagination boost. Now, if you show something on TV  you can lead the herd, as though this is reality stimulus. It still involves the imagination, but now this is unconscious. 


Edited by HydrogenBond, 24 December 2016 - 07:58 AM.


#15 Deepwater6

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Posted 24 December 2016 - 03:53 PM

I watched a documentary yesterday with the title "The Observed Life". It reviewed the affects of personalized technology on our memories and perception of time.

 

One of the segments had a man who continually loses most of his short-term episodic memory due to a brain injury. He was forced to find creative ways to help him recall important near term events in his life. He uses technology for all his memory needs most of us take for granted. He chronicles as much information as he can to let him know everything he needs to be able to function, from what's going on at work, to the last time he exercised, to what his recent conversations with his girlfriend consisted of. He basically created a private twitter account to function as his memory.

 

The show also went into apps that help humans record their lives. The one presented on the show was titled "One Second Everyday". With this app you record 1 second of your life (presumable the highlight of your day I suppose) and the app stitches the short time segments into a short film.

 

Many experts on the show explained that more and more people are spending more and more time archiving their lives instead of living them. Many of us feel more hurried now than ever before due to all of our technology obligations, writing that e-mail, going on facebook, and even adding this reply to Hypog. It explained how memories, artificially created or not, shape us, what we've done, where we've been, to help us define who we are and what our goals are from this point forward. 

 

I share many of the concerns expressed by others above, but technology can be a powerful ally if we can execute a strategy to make it work us for rather than the other way around.



#16 DrKrettin

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Posted 25 December 2016 - 04:19 AM

 

Many experts on the show explained that more and more people are spending more and more time archiving their lives instead of living them. 

 

Recently I had the wonderful experience of visiting the Acropolis in Athens. It is always a memorable event for me, but what really struck me was the behaviour of other tourists, who all seemed to be American or Japanese. Every single one of them wandered round in a random fashion with video cameras glued to their heads. They never actually looked at anything, they never took stock of what they were seeing, they were just archiving.



#17 Deepwater6

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Posted 26 December 2016 - 12:59 PM

One of the moderators of the program also touched on that, he went to last years world series and noticed a majority of the crowd having their phone cameras out to either record or take pictures. Like you he also felt that people were more concerned with taping the event rather than actually enjoying it. His point of view was that people weren't so concerned with recording the game, but were much more interested in recording themselves at the event to show others.

 

Another moderator asked how many people are actually residing in the "present" and how many people are preoccupied with archiving an immediate future which is destined to land immediately in their past?

 

One of the differences in technology today which is unlike the TV and computers of just a few years ago is that technology can actually be with us all the time. We would have to go sit in front of the TV or computer to interact with that technology, today it can be with us every waking moment if we wish it to.

 

I think another facet of the technology issue is that as our ability to archive our memories increases, what will happen to our own ability to remember? Or maybe better said, our need to remember.