The Future Is Here: How Technology Is Changing Who We Are Without Us Noticing It

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Unlike Harrison Ford, we have no flying cars or androids walking among us (yet). But make no mistake about it: The future has arrived, and we didn’t even blink. ***

The future has an inconspicuous way of getting here.

Just the other day, my boss kept glancing at her Apple Watch during a staff meeting. She wasn’t just admiring it—she was busy flicking this way and that way, checking her to-do list and her calendar and doing many other things. Nobody else seemed to pay attention. But up until that moment, the only other person I can remember using such a high-tech watch is Dick Tracy.

This stealthiness with which technology has come to permeate our lives is such that makes it difficult to appreciate how much it’s changing society. I’m not talking simply about how our phones have displaced cameras, or even about the effect of digital devices on interpersonal communication.

drawing of Dick Tracy and his watch

The first Apple Watch?

I’m referring to the social movement that technology is creating. Thanks to the enourmous impact that Apple (and to a degree, other companies) have had on us, this movement affects everything about the way we work, love, study, and indeed, how we live.

To be sure, most of these changes are positive. For one thing (and of particular interest to our readers), our efficiency has improved. It’s now easier than ever before to access information, which means that both formal and informal education have benefited greatly. Kids get to learn in creative, interactive ways that excite their imagination, helping them master things like spelling and counting at increasingly younger ages. As for adults, we can now engage in distance education or study web seminars, acquiring or improving skills that might otherwise lie beyond our reach.

screenshot from the movie Wall-e

***Wall-e: did it really happen in a far, far away time? ***

Indeed, the benefits brought about by technology are too many to be listed here, let alone discussed in any significant detail. But there are many disadvantages, too. A large number of them will turn out to be iconsenquential or overblown. Others, however, are worth noting.

screenshot from The Truman Show

***Unlike Truman, we’ve actually chosen to be the target of a thousand inquistive eyes: We all want to be stars, and technology helps us feel like one. ***

For example, as we rely on technology to help us with our tasks and entertainment, we become more sedentary. Our sleep has suffered as well, due not just to the availaibility of electric lighting, which has prompted many of us to go to bed later, but also to the detrimental effect of the light emitted by electronic screens on melatonin production. (Ironically, many companies are now using technology to get us moving more and sleeping better.)

The price isn’t just physical. Many of us are also becoming more isolated, lack social skills, and even get depressed. As for productivity, countless studies show we’re now far more easily distracted, which takes a toll on both work output and quality.

As if that weren’t enough, we’re turning into narcissistic creatures, letting the number of Facebook “likes” dictate our mood as we flood social networking sites with trivia about ourselves—not to mention far too many selfies.

A dire future?

It’s all too easy to focus on the negative effects of technology. And we should focus on them—provided we don’t negate its many positive sides, or indeed its potential to alleviate or solve many of the problems it causes. Nor should we lose sight of the fact that many us can choose to partially forego some technological advances, should we decide they come at too high a cost for our wellbeing.

In the end, however, technology has always disrupted our lives—and will continue to do so. It just happens at a much faster pace today. It’s up to us to decide when enough is enough. But we have to pay attention first.