So, I'm on my way to work. Silicon Valley traffic can be particularly brutal at 6:30am, especially before coffee. The light turns green, and the gray minivan in front of me just sits there, brake lights illuminating my drowsy face, as I try to be patient. After several seconds, I give the minivan a polite "beep" from my car. Through his rear view mirror, I can see him abruptly look up - the idiot is on his smartphone! Dammit, get out of the way! People gotta get to work here! Tech was supposed to make our lives better, easier, and safer. But like Cocaine was supposed to cure us of ailments back in the 1800's, tech has become the addiction that drives us to do some really stupid and dangerous things. How did we get here?
The same way that drug addicts do - we got hooked.
Think back, way back...back to the 1970's. Motorola comes out with the first "wireless telephone". During this time, the age of semiconductors has taken flight, as theses magic chips begin their journey to becoming smaller, cheaper and faster. In parallel, universities were working on a network that would enable computers to share information with each other, from far away locations. Little did we know the repercussions of our actions.
As semiconductors get better, we started to have these bright ideas. Thoughts of "Hey, with this smaller chip, I can make small computers that can fit on your lap", or the infamous "With this wireless electronic circuit, I can connect devices without cables". The advent of small/faster/cheaper grew into what we know today to be laptop computers and the internet.
But that wasn't enough for us - like an addict, it never is.
We thought "With the internet, portable computing power, and the wireless phones, we can make small devices that people can use to connect to each other without wires." The age of the smartphone had reared its ugly head, and never went away. Now, with a "smart" phone, you can compute, you can connect, and you can waste your day away on Candy Crush, all from a device that fits into your pocket or purse.
Tech makes us do dumb things.
Tech distracts us. It makes our minds wander, and causes us to lose sight of what we're doing, or where we're going. How about the person who holds up a line, while they're on the phone trying to find out if their daughter wants chocolate ice cream or vanilla? Or the person who is using his speakerphone in a crowded room, because apparently he wants to show the world that he can talk to his buddy without using his hands - or his common sense? And how about the ubiquitous person who walks into a tree, or falls into a fountain, while texting and walking?
Get off the phone!
But technology, like a loaded gun, can be helpful, or it can be really dangerous.
Personally, I have had more than one friend, who was killed by a distracted driver. What about drivers who literally drive with a smartphone in their hand, while going 60 miles an hour? Or drivers who stare down at a screen, instead of seeing that guy on a road bike - the guy he just ran over? Or the person who sends text messages, while driving an 18-wheeler down a busy street, only to run a red light and kill a mother and her young daughter? And don't get me started on terrorists who use cellphones to blow up soldiers, or people who use social media to bully others into suicide. And, with a quick look on Twitter, we see how stupid, how racist, and how mysogynistic a politician can be if given the chance.
You guys, what are we doing here?
Tech was supposed to be fun. It was supposed to make us happier, and more productive. Are we so stupid, than we hurt and kill ourselves with anything that you put into our hands? Are we like kids who run with scissors? Can't we be responsible enough as "intelligent beings" to not get addicted by technology?
Personally, I got rid of social media (save for LinkedIn). No Instagram, or Facebook or Twitter. It's too damn distracting, and it causes too many problems. I also got off my iPhone, and now use a 10-year old Motorola Q, which can't even get online, and barely does text. Why would I go through these lengths to avoid tech, especially after having started my writing work as an actual tech writer for The Huffington Post? Why? Because I woke up, looked around, and like Neo from The Matrix, put on the Gargoyles and saw what we were turning ourselves into. With tech in our dumb hands, we are literally killing ourselves, while thinking that we are actually benefiting from it.
Tech was, and still is, supposed to improve our world. But anything without moderation and responsibility, becomes a problem. Who would have thought that people would die as the result of phones? Who would have thought that the internet would cause and enable suicides? And who would have thought that a woman in a coffee shop would get shot over her laptop?
The advent of tech, and the promise of a better world, neglected to consider one thing...
... that we human beings have never been responsible enough to run with scissors - why would tech be any different?