Friday, May 4, 2012

Rant: Technology

1. This is the first post on this blog for which I'm earning no college credit.  I like to write, so I figured maybe I'd keep it up.
2. This post was inspired by my first-day-of-finals Stanley Kubrick film marathon.  It had been awhile since I'd really sat down and watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, so I guess it just got me thinking.  Clearly not focused on my finals.

Anyone who has spent any time in the same room as me knows that sometimes I tend to get angry at things.  And in most cases, it isn't necessarily things but people.  And in all fairness it isn't so much anger is it is frustration and general disgust that I have a difficult time keeping under wraps.  To put it simply: I am disgusted by the stupidity of some people.

Here's the bigger issue: people seem to be getting stupider and stupider as time progresses.  When I combine my frustration with the human race with a movie released in 1968, I come to this conclusion: technology is making us dumber.  But it isn't only dumber... it's a general sucky-ness at life that our reliance on technology has led to.

So as not to discriminate against your current place in the age spectrum, and so I don't get myself thrown under the bus with discussion of "kids these days," let's all just take a moment to separate ourselves from ourselves and think about the future.  Even if modern technology remains at a standstill, I suggest the following things will take over the human race (well, the human race in Western society, to be specific):

1. No one will know how to read a map.  Hell, I bet most people today couldn't navigate an unfamiliar area without some sort of GPS step-by-step instruction.  Many prefer the robot voice type...because reading is wicked hard.

2. Cursive (or "handwriting," if you're over the age of 60) will no longer be taught in schools and will therefore eventually cease to exist.  I suspect this has already started to happen in schools.  The time and effort spent helping children perfect these skills will have their place taken by typing and computer skills.  I don't really have a legitimate argument about why this trade-off is bad, it just makes me a little sad.  My grandma would be disappointed.  I love my grandma.

3. The meaning of the word "privacy" will be lost completely.  People will be unaware of how much value was once placed on having time to yourself and not having to share any information about where you are, what you're doing, who you're with, and what you feel.  Instead, lack of sharing and response from a pseudo-social community will make you an outcast. (I'll stop my rant against social media before it begins.)

4. (more ranting about how social media and text messaging is ruining true communication)

5. This is the part in which I am a hypocrite.  Remember when people actually balanced their bank accounts occasionally?  In all fairness, I know how to do it, and even though I don't, I still watch my bank account transactions like a crazy person.  Still, it's good practice, and if nothing more, it's a reason to practice your math skills.  This leads me to a side note:
All that stuff our parents and grandparents said about how calculators are ruining our math skills is absolutely true.  I'm good at math because I like math.  The general population has the math skills of a 2nd grader.  Examples of questions I was asked regularly by customers during my 5 year retail career:
  • What's 50% off of $9.99?
  • How many yards in a foot?
  • How many feet is 2 yards?
  • How many feet is 60 inches?
  • If this is $3.99 and I buy 2, about how much is that?

If you've ever wanted proof that the technology we've created is becoming smarter than we are, sit down and have a chat with one of my Best Buy employee friends or just Google some numbers.  The percentage of electronic items that are returned and reported as "broken" because users think they're smart enough to figure them out but fail to do so is astronomical.

A very small number of super smart people have visions of crazy awesome technology that could change our lives and do amazing things, and then when these technologies come to fruition and are marketed to "everyday" users, things go bad.  Users don't understand how to use the technologies that surround them, and if they do, they still fail to comprehend the power their devices hold over them.  The technological literacy gap is ever-growing, yet it isn't often that anyone on either side stop to look at the consequences of any of the innovations.  It's new, shiny, and exciting, and that's all that matters.

And so someday SIRI will become the HAL9000 that Stanley Kubrick warned us about in 1968.  She will kill us in our sleep or hurl us into outer space... unless we figure out how to disable her memory and logic and make it back to that creepy room where we age really fast and die and become a fetus.  Monolith.

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