June 7, 2012 at 6:10 am, by Carl
Actually, in no way am I a real Luddite—I have this blog here as well as a simple Tumblr account and I have email and use a cell phone (dumb style still). Or, maybe I am a real Luddite since the term doesn’t really mean opposed to having new technology, but sees a real threat in new technology (initially, back in the day, the threat was to industry jobs through new machines) to the point that the Luddites attacked and destroyed factories. Of course, a lot of good it did them since we know industry advanced onward quite well, thank you.
So, I am continually warning about how technology is changing culture, and thus threatening our goal here of you Living Well. But, as I have posted often before, I don’t think we’d be able to eliminate this relentless march of technology progress. Even if some government or power tried to put the Genie back in the bottle…well, its just not possible. We have to learn to work with the technology and control it.
However, that reality of learning to control it won’t stop me from warning about the issues that are touching all phases of life. Back in April, Fast Company’s blog posts over 3 days exposed the coming challenges to the explosion of technology. In typical “we love everything Apple/Google/Amazon/Facebook does” mode, FC gives no evidence that they really see the problems, but at least they are talking about them. So, over the next 3 blog posts here at Live Well, we’ll take a look at these and discuss steps you should take.
For starters, check this out. I’m reading a great book called Physics of the Future which is about what life will be like in 2100. The author is not some starry-eyed fiction writer, but rather Physicist Michio Kaku. He’s interviewed over 300 experts about how their fields are changing, and will change more in the future. The short version is that we ain’t seen nothing yet. Part of the reality is that we simply will lose, unless we really fight to hold on,the ability to do some core basic things.
Thus, Fast Company posted “Google and the Death of Getting Lost.” Clearly, between Siri, location awareness and other technologies within our vehicles, it seems like the ability to know how to follow a map will die. I know people who get lost easily; for them, this must be good news. ”So, Carl, why are you worried about this?”
Well, for starters, thanks to my father, I grew up with an excellent sense of awareness and the ability to rarely get lost (everyone gets lost some times). Better, by growing up in the mountains were I took many long walks in the woods, I developed my own location awareness that allows me to make my way through unfamiliar locations with a pretty solid grasp of where I am and where I need to be going. It’s not perfect; I am not like one of those wilderness experts you see on Discovery, but I generally can find my way around easily.
Over the years, both as a curious boy but also as a historian, I grew to love maps. Learning how to match what I see on paper with physically where I am is a fun game that I still play to this day. I love the moment that I can determine how a road twists and turns, especially in relationship to other roads I travel along. The problem is that we will lose this generally as a people. Imagine yourself in a strange location and not being able to connect to your supposedly all-knowing device. Now what? What if your life hangs in the balance? OK, that’s rare for most of us, but what if your next job or your raise hung in the balance?
Worse still, choosing to only trust the machine is unwise. Read how Fast Company put this:
But a recent article about the difference in automation of flying systems in modern airliners from Boeing and Airbus gives us pause. Boeing, you see, maintains a pilot authority over the automated flying systems … whereas Airbus leaves the aircraft nearly always in command with the pilot instructing it. Both systems have their benefits, though the Airbus one may have a slight edge on overall safety. But both are resulting in a suite of pilots who never have to learn the delicacies of flying, the intangible “seat of the pants” sensations that give them an affinity with their machine. In short, the pilots are insulated from “real” flying by the automated systems, and if they go wrong then the pilots may be lost.
And that’s similar to automatic navigation, if you think about it. If for one reason or another you find yourself somewhere unfamiliar and all your different navigation aids shut down, then you may be truly stumped. And if your self-driving car, absolutely reliant on computer-based navigation, loses its place, then so will you.
Plus there’s also the horrible notion that by telling Google or Microsoft or Apple where you are all the time, you may subject yourself to adverts of an almost horrible personal-tracking level of relevance … Minority Report-style. There’s also the whimsical sense that by giving navigation over almost totally to computers, we’re losing touch with a basic animal skill that’s served us well for millions of years.
Don’t really think Orwell’s vision of Big Brother could really ever happen? Well, wait till the next post. Might just wipe that smirk off your face.