Limits to Technology: Controlling Our Space and Managing Our Freedom

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Most futuristic science fiction movies depict human beings as having some sort of microchip technology inserted into the human body. In July of this year, certain employees at a Wisconsin-based technology company had the option of inserting a small microchip underneath the skin on their hands in order to make it easier and faster to unlock the doors at the company, log onto work computers, and perform other work-related tasks. For many people, this is simply the inevitable progression of technology into our lives, the arrival of our predestined technological future. For others, it is yet another sign of the increased invasiveness of technology as it controls ever-larger portions of our lives.

While this certain technological development may temporarily cause a backlash from segments of the population who find this new incursion of technology into the human body as worrisome, once established as the norm, resistance from users will most likely gradually wear out as we simply come to accept the new technology as a necessity. This, in essence, is one of the defining characteristics of technological development: its ability to transform from a pioneering and earth-shattering discovery into an everyday part of our lives.

How many times have we heard commentaries from people related to the difficulties of life before the advent of the smart phone? “I don´t know how we managed before having our phones,” is a typical dinner conversation topic in today´s world. In a few years’ time, we will be saying the same thing about “smart speakers” like the Amazon Echo whose artificial “intelligence” can answer any question, control your smart home, play games for you and buy things for you on Amazon (though many would argue that equating “intelligence” with the ability to buy things is a dangerous proposition). In a decade or two, people who do not have some sort of chip inserted underneath their skin or into their brains will be considered as neo-Luddites.

The Need for Limits

Our deepening dependence on certain technological developments, and our willingness to promptly adopt every expansion of technology into the intimate details of our lives, is potentially hazardous and based on unsound judgement. As we accept new and “smarter” technologies, we voluntarily relinquish our ability for critical thought. The seemingly infinite and unencumbered access to knowledge is the supposed consolation prize we receive.

“Alexa” might be able to answer any question we have (through a quick search on Google), but recent research finds that this “world at our finger tips” has led to lazy thinking. Additionally, we have lost any sense that a certain level of human ignorance is necessary and healthy, a needed sign of our proper place and scale in the larger of order of things.

Over the past decades, technology has made its way increasingly closer to our bodies: from phones, TVs, and the internet into our homes, to Wi-Fi signals that follow us wherever we go, to smartphones that are in our pockets 24/7, to microchips being placed into tens of thousands of human bodies. Without imposing limits to this steady forward march of technology, the human body will soon become nothing more than an electrical device that connects with other external electrical devices.

Children and Technology

My daughter, who still cannot read or write, knows how to scroll through the apps on her mother´s cell phone in order to find pictures, videos, and music. Though we don´t have Wi-Fi in our home nor internet on the phone, during a recent vacation, our daughter learned over the course of two days how to take advantage of the hotel´s Wi-Fi to find cartoons on YouTube. It helped, of course, that YouTube “recommended” a number of related searches to cartoon videos thus guiding our daughter even further into her fascination with the wonders of the screen.

The luminosity of screens is captivating, even to a child who does not necessarily understand everything that appears on that screen. Certain studies have found a number of potentially dangerous side effects of introducing young children to interactive screens, from an impeded ability to learn self-regulation to inhibited social and creative behavior.

While every family will make their own decisions related to when (and if) they should introduce a child to smartphones, tablets, and Wi-Fi signals, almost every parent will consent that certain limits are necessary. If a parent does deem that technology is a necessity for their child, then installing monitoring software on the phone or computer that the child uses should be an absolute priority. MSpy is one such monitoring software that allows parents to track the technological activity of their children, including GPS location, web history, images, videos, emails, SMS, Skype, WhatsApp, keystrokes and much more.

One Family´s Limits

While I am certainly no Luddite and do enjoy the benefits of the Internet and other technologies, my family and I have decided to draw the line at the smartphone. We have a computer in our house and a simple cellphone, but we don´t have data on our phone nor Wi-Fi signal in our house. Our internet comes through a USB modem stick that allows us to decide when and where we connect to the “world wide web.” The phone that is in our house allows us to exert a bit more control over when and how people can communicate with us.

This decision to assiduously limit the incursion of technology into our lives is our attempt to maintain boundaries and restrictions and not simply allow the ever-swifter current of technology to overwhelm us. In a few years’ time, however, USB modem sticks may no longer be available and communication companies may decide to stop producing phones that aren´t “smart” all together. In the not so distant future, people without microchips inserted into their bodies may not be able to get a Wi-Fi signal to connect to the internet. These realities will inevitably affect our relationship with technology in the near future.

Not every family needs to share the same limits that our family has chosen. Some families might choose to avoid the internet all together, while others might establish other limits on how far smartphones, Wi-Fi, smart speakers, and human-implanted microchips reach into their lives. Without a firm and conscientious decision to create limits, however, the tech industry will only continue to sweep us all into the future it is imposing.

Both for our children and for ourselves, finding ways to take control over our own lives and make resolute and autonomous decisions about how we use technology is fundamental for people wanting to control their lives, their homes, and their freedom.