Computers, the Internet and Society: Beware of the Technology Trap
I was lucky enough to have a desktop computer as a young teenager as this eventually helped kick start a technological symbiosis in my life. My dad purchased an IBM 286 computer for the family that ran Microsoft's latest version of DOS. I remember typing away on the monochromatic display eventually learning how to navigate this new computer world. Eventually I progressed forward and learned how to program some basic functions within DOS's built-in Quick BASIC programming language. Then, with the help of several books I borrowed from the library, I was soon able to make games complete with ASCII graphics and computer generated characters.
As I grew more comfortable with the computer, my reliance upon it increased. We installed WordPerfect and had added a dot matrix printer because I was soon typing up my school work rather than writing it by hand. It was in the middle of my high-school career that I made the realization that the use of computers were now a necessity in life and there was no going back. My relationship with technology grew and I embraced this tool as simply an extension of my mind. I knew that if I did not embrace the computer, I would get left behind in the world.
Many of my friends weren't so lucky but as time went on, everyone's family eventually found themselves with a computer in their home. Two of my best friends and I grew up as the three biggest computer geeks in school. People came to us to solve their computer issues. Even the high school's resident IT professional asked for our advice on many things, usually items that pertained to computer security, etc.
As society around us became more and more reliant on computers for everyday use it became normal to have a machine that was once only seen in businesses and universities in the home. In high school you were expected to be able to use a computer and submit assignments that were typewritten. For the students who did not have a home computer yet it meant spending long hours at the library to try to finish their assignments.
Acceptance of The Internet
Not too long after computers began to be commonplace, the Internet and World Wide Web became available to the general public. The connected world we live in today would not have been possible without the computer and yet the Internet's impact on society and our way of life is far greater than what the computer ever did. It began with the installation of modems into our computers that tapped into the existing telephone networks to be able to access other computers. Next, we had to sign up with a service provider so that our connections to the outside world could be made. Dial-up service was slow and unreliable, but it opened the door to a whole new virtual world.
My friends and I experimented with a variety of Internet based activities. We create our own blogs and websites, began to play internet based games, and even learned how to access the Internet for free without paying for an Internet Service Provider (unfortunately that did not last very long). We also found great uses for the hundreds of AOL CD's that had accumulated in our rooms.
Today, being connected to everyone and everything is an essential part of life. Society expects you to remain connected so that you can stay on top of the latest happenings of both the physical and virtual worlds. Haven't heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge? Then you must be a caveman! Without a Facebook account? Well then you are either a rebel or a loner.
The availability of information at our fingertips has never been smaller nor has it been less complicated. Texting, emails, Video Chat, Instant Messages, forums & discussion boards, blogs and webpages are many of the new ways that information can be disseminated. This variety is a lot to consume and yet society accepts it as the new norm. What's next for our future? Will information overload cause our brains to explode or will we trade our memories of the past to allow room for more information today?
The Technology Trap
Society has become so dependent on technology that we've actually created a trap for ourselves. If the power were to be cut or if the Internet were to shutdown what would we do? If disaster was short it may not cause much harm but what if it lasted much longer? Could you go a day without the Internet? What about a week? A Month? Many of us can't even imagine a world without our technology. What would happen to our food supply or our careers?
As you can see, the same technology that was invented to make our lives easier could also be the same thing that leads to our demise. Once small event, such as a power shortage or other electrical failure, and our entire world is turned on it's side. Suddenly, we have to try and remember how to do things the old way for our lives may depend on it. Is a technological apocalypse on the horizon?
Of course many people would argue that something like this could never happen or that if it did we could adapt to the change. And indeed humans are the greatest creature on the planet in terms of adaptation, however, it would be extremely difficult to do so. It's hard to go back to doing things the old way when the new way was so much faster, easier, cheaper, etc
Society has no choice but to move forward and grow. This is the nature of the world that we live in. Technology will continually impact our lives and we will become more and more dependent upon it as time moves on. Think about the fact that the current young generation is the first generation ever to never know a world without computers and the Internet. They will grow up in this new time and have no experience living in a world without computers. Our children and grandchildren will grow up completely dependent upon technology. However, the future is indeed what you make of it; it doesn't have to be a scary place fraught with chaos and individuals living on the edge of disaster. This is indeed a point to ponder.