Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Real benefits for more people?
My best transatlantic friend pointed out this article from ABC news to me today. It is about the negative effects of widespread GPS technology on humans as they get out of the habit of finding their own way. In the future, very many more people will have easy access to not only GPS but also many other technologies which will render some existing human skills and activities redundant. While some hail the iPhone at the moment, in the future there will be far more capable devices in many more people's pockets, providing exactly what information they need, wherever they need it, and whenever they need it. Humans will need to do less of some things they previously did.
The phenomenon described in the ABC article about GPS is not limited to people having no sense of direction in future. It already began with the advent of much simpler technology. How many people have got out of the habit of remembering phone numbers since phones began storing them for us? Another example is the inability of some people to follow recipes and cook fresh food - they live entirely on pre-prepared meals that simply pass from freezer to microwave oven. This trend has again been enabled by technology which is now in the form of fairly ubiquitous white goods.
So what next? What other activities will go out of fashion? What other skills will be lost? Which social customs will die out? And is it all negative? Actually there are other new skills that many people will learn to do with the new technologies, a number of which will be taken for granted until they too die out through the advent of newer developments. For example, most people now are familiar with the use of a computer mouse to control applications on a personal computer. This invented human skill will have a limited life once technology allows people to interact more naturally with machines. And so the cycle will continue... although I hope that technology never causes humans to forget how to value the friendship of others. Otherwise I may never have seen the ABC article and never have written this entry!