Into the Light: In Defense of Evil Technology
I love calendars. I love planners. I love address books. And even though I work for a tech company, I still prefer the paper versions to the digital ones. Clicking a checkbox doesn’t compare to the satisfaction of pressing pen to paper to draw a big fat X over a completed task. And the thrill of flipping the calendar page to reveal that fresh new “1” will never be replaced by the automatic switch of a phone calendar.
Though paper goods are great, great, great, the fact is, they make me late, late, late. Without my pop-up notices, I’d be the worst date ever. Nowadays, the only reason I keep a paper calendar around is for that simple pleasure of crossing things off. It’s my phone and my desktop notices that I really rely on to be a somewhat functional adult. Many would argue that these tools are turning chunks of our brains into mush (that’s the technical term) from disuse. I’m no neurologist, but I was a psych major and I’m going to assert something with menial proof or experience to back it up: the psychological effects are unlikely to outweigh the practical benefits.
I may not know my friends’ numbers by heart anymore and the dim blue light of my phone screen before bed does make falling asleep a bit harder. I know there are many other negatives I’m not listing here for the sake of rhetoric, but let’s be real: everything is bad for you these days, and if I can trade 15 minutes of shut-eye for the 15 minutes I would have been late otherwise, I’ll take it. Yes, I’m a little worried about what the radio waves are doing to my body and that the aversion to calling is giving us all social anxiety. And I’m a lot worried that my memory will suck when I hit 50 and my kids will never have a “true childhood,” because iPads. But I’m not worried about remembering birthdays, finding the best route to anywhere, having flowers delivered to my mom with 3 clicks, or sending my friend a message of support before they walk into their interview.
The ultimate cop-out phrase (behind “yes and no”) is “it’s all relative.” Not all of it. There are some very scary consequences that have already and will continue to come from the pervasion of technology into all that we do, and those are daunting. But this sounds just like that time the food pyramid was invented and all of America started ditching healthy fat and loading up on the carbs. Or that other time TV was invented and society as we know it began to rot away in a pile of insidious cartoons and excessive violence. Or, lest us not forget, that little scientific meet-up called The Manhattan Project (not that anyone ever thought that was a cute idea).
I’m not trying to convince you to walk blindly into the dim blue light. Drones are cool, but they’re also super scary and already wreaking havoc on the international community. Self-driving cars are cool, but… well, they’re pretty cool. And even further, I’m not saying that unless the consequences are hugely apparent we should accept every new technology with open arms. I doubt anyone saw the dangers of the little pyramid outlining ideal veggie intake, or the box of pictures that eventually beat out radio, the once-champion of news and entertainment. There’s no way to know, but we’re lucky enough to have the—wait for it—technology to get educated guesses and answers faster than ever before. In a magnificent way, technology fights against itself to prevent its own would-be disasters.
Most normal Americans—parents, small business owners, educators, laborers—are concerned about the introduction of advanced technology into the previously pure spaces of their lives. I don’t doubt that when I’m a parent I’ll fear every invention that has the power to capture my child’s rapt attention for more than 15 minutes at a time. What I do doubt is that it’ll turn them into horrible human beings or do more damage to them than the absence of technological knowledge would in a world that’s run by technology. Similarly, businesses need to accept the advantages they’ve been afforded to progress their industries and expand their markets.
I have endless adoration for my favorite breakfast spot that still uses an old-school printing calculator for their bills. The margin they lose on human error is made up for by the charm that keeps the coffee pots filled and the customers coming back. But in a few short years, I doubt they’ll still be typing up their receipts. They’ll have an app and a pick-up window, a social media manager and a bustling Instagram following. Or they won’t, and nothing will change, including their success.
Yes, charm will be lost. ADD will get worse. Children may go outside less. But at this point, there’s no question that the iTechnology and the self-somethings will keep coming. It’s not yes and no; it’s not all relative. It’s just yes.