A technological ice age

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How does humanity coincide with technology?

By Koy Tayler, Contributor

Is the human race driving itself into a technological ice age? Shooting through cyberspace are concerns of whether or not humanity’s desire for technology is hurting society at its most basic level—communication. Are futuristic adaptations such as Disney’s WALL-E predicting how humanity is set on a direct course for a future with little physical communication and more artificial relationships?

The Disney Pixar animation movie, WALL-E depicts a young robot as he searches for love but also illustrates a larger concern that involves humanity. In this future, humans are confined to chairs—not out of necessity, but by choice. The technology available in this space and time allows people to carry out daily activities from the comfort of chairs, and human-to-human interactions are rare at best. Could this be an example of a realistic future?

Despite this, technology is also shown to aid humanity in ways that past generations could not have dreamed of. Recently, NBCNews.com published a story about a Pennsylvania student, Cole Fritz, who was injured in a car accident, which prohibited him from attending school. With the help of technology he was able to be present in classes; a robotic device (basically an iPad attached to a Segway) allowed him to freely move throughout the hallways of his high school and interact with teachers and friends from the comfort of his home. It is technological advances such as this that have allowed humanity to develop and improve how it communicates and serves its needs.

Technology such as this could be utilized in other areas of life such as in homes or at work when individuals are unable to be present. Similar situations to this are already seen through applications such as Skype and FaceTime, which strengthen relationships between individuals who are separated by vast distances. Should society start to look at technology with a less critical eye and appreciate how it has positively affected the way we live and communicate?

On May 5, 2014, the United Nations estimated that by the end of 2014 there would be nearly 3-billion people around the world with access to the Internet. This is an astounding number, allowing for large amounts of information and data to spread around the world far faster than ever thought possible. Technology has allowed the human race to convene, collaborate, imagine, and create relationships with people around the world and develop machines that improve the lives of so many. Examples of this are robotic limbs, computers that allow speech, and phones that can improve our minds and overall health. Yet is the convenience and speed of technology replacing the need for our physical selves when connecting with others?

The world’s current adolescents are suspected of having a slight case of cabin fever with all of the time they spend at home on various devices—at least this is the view of a small majority. Teenagers are the main topic when discussing how much technology people should be using on a daily or even weekly basis. With applications such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, it is hard to go a day without seeing a young person’s face inches away from the screens of their phones, barely escaping running into a pole. Comical in one aspect but is this the precursor for how society will one day function?

Gone are the days when you had to call and let people know how you are feeling. With Apple’s new watch, as seen on their official website, individuals can place two fingers on the screen to send their heartbeat to someone, letting them know how their heart races for them. Will a romantic gesture now be just a tap away? Growing in popularity are personal devices such as Google Glass and the latest smartphones where navigation, videos, messaging, and sharing are so accessible and simple that children can manipulate such products.

A concern seen on HuffingtonPost.com is how technology is changing social norms due to the growing number of people who are absent to those present around them. These individuals are seen as absent, because they are so engulfed in what is happening on their mobile devices. People love using applications such as Twitter and Instagram to illustrate where they are and what they are doing, almost creating a new type of public statement. Although physically present, many no longer fully enjoy people and settings around them. When texting, many use slang words and other representations of “wurds” and “fraises.” With instant messaging, some are left to wonder how people communicating through handheld devices will affect the ability to comprehend and apply proper uses of language.

Is the overpowering influence of technology because of how little people appreciate the life it has brought? The dialogue of whether or not technology is hurting society should shift blame away from the advancement of technology, or even the individuals who discover and create these advances. Conversations should be focussed on how society should utilize it in a more constructive way, one that respects its power and does not abuse it for things—like asking if Siri is Her (a reference from Spike Jonze’s movie Her).

Medical advancements have proven groundbreaking, providing individuals with abilities that are taken for granted by most. Through robot limbs and eye vision correction procedures, along with others, people’s lives are improved as personal accomplishments and goals are more easily achieved than before. Progression in technology has given members of society the ability to improve their health through devices to track sleep, caloric intake, and steps walked. Despite more common concerns over human health, applications such as these have allowed people to more easily stay in touch with their health between doctor’s visits.

Technology has made learning easier. Many young people growing up with the Internet have heard from previous generations of how lucky they are to access information so effortlessly, with the aid of technological tools. Not only does technology in the home improve educational outcomes, but many are also fortunate enough to have devices such as tablets and laptops which facilitate a different learning environment than the traditional one seen in the public education system. Now, even within establishments such as the library, computers are readily available to aid an individual’s search for the needle they require in the haystack of books.

So, looking at how technology hurts and improves society, how can humanity create a balance of its use? Apart from personal restrictions or utility of technology, is a conversation about establishing legislation to reduce consumption of it needed? Is the law of not allowing drivers to use cellphones while driving just the first step? These are all difficult questions to address, so society may be left to wait for the onset of the technological ice age with no answers. While waiting, I encourage you to find a balance between the presence and the absence of technology in your lives.