Technophobia


In 1969 as a young boy I sat on the floor of the living room in our house with my mother, father, and entire family, to watch an event that promised to change the world. An event that had been hyped up for weeks as the most technologically advanced feat of all time. An event which was at last unveiling before our very eyes on what was then to us the most advanced technology we knew of, television. Despite the snowy, wavy, low grade images, we sat silently, jaws agape, and watched as Neil Armstrong took that giant leap for mankind to become the first human being ever to step on the surface of the Moon.

We watched it all on a beautiful rosewood framed black and white Bosch Television that had buttons on the front for turning it on and off and for changing the channels. Back then ‘remote’ meant living in a cottage at the top of a mountain and if you wanted to change channels you got up off your posterior, walked to the television, and pressed the button. Mind you the choice of channel was much simpler then, given we had only four.

How things have changed. Since then technology, and our dependence on it, has advanced rapidly and today your television can broadcast hundreds of channels direct to your living room via cables and satellites, and the computer in your average home is hundreds of times more powerful than that which ran the entire moon mission.

In the home these technological advances are becoming more and more evident. Now we have ‘smart homes’ that turn on the lights as you enter a room or allow you to listen to music where ever you are. Internet connected fridges that tell you when you are running low on milk and will even order, pay for, and have it delivered to your door from your nearest supermarket. You can even start up the oven or turn on the heating system with a mobile phone as you leave the office after a busy day.

And what of the Internet? Hardly fifteen years in existence it now seems that life cannot be lived or function properly without it. Drawn to it in huge numbers we humans silently sit in front of millions of computer screens downloading and uploading billions and billions of bytes of information every day whilst all the time contactable via email or the ubiquitous mobile phone.

Our dependence on technology has long passed the point of no return but the question is what benefits if any, has technology brought us. More free time? Then why are we constantly complaining of just the opposite? Has it helped us build better communities? Then why are our communities dying? Healthier lifestyles maybe? Then why is obesity one of the fastest growing problems facing young people and why is half the world starving? Has it made us better at communicating with, and understanding each other? Then why is the world such a violent place? Why can we not seem to get on better?

Of course technology is hugely important and necessary and has in many ways enhanced our lives, but for all our advances and all our acquiring of knowledge, we would do well to remember that technology will best serve us as a tool, not as a lifestyle. Dependence on something can quickly turn to addiction which very soon becomes a form of slavery. If the way forward for mankind is to be wired up to every network on the planet, have every scintilla of information at our fingertips, yet not ever know our neighbours, then surely we are taking a giant leap backwards for mankind, a retrograde step in a process that would very definitely change the world and the way we live in it, irrevocably, and for the worse.

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About Ronan Gallagher

Writer and Film-maker living and working in Leitrim in the North West of Ireland. View all posts by Ronan Gallagher

4 responses to “Technophobia

  • Martin Prendergast

    Ronan,
    Very astute observations. I am very proud of my modest grasp of the Wo-Wi-We and I can manage to change the channels on the TV. But if I need to record something from the TV….then I still rely on the talents of a passing 10 year old!
    I too watched in wonder as those men stepped onto the Moon. For days after I heard whispers from doubting farmers assembled at the local creamery, insisting that the whole thing was a farce and a “smoke and mirrors” job.
    I read recently that scientists were searching the Galaxy for “new earths”. I hope the first one they find can teach us a few lessons!

  • lmcg1

    Hello Ronan,
    The upcoming moon landing anniversary – 40 years, took place on my birthday, so it will be an interesting time to reflect, as you have on the massive changes in technology. I had just graduated from university at the time, and remember being amongst the first group to be able to take a class in computer programming. The computer, brand new at the university, occupied an entire building. We used punch cards, then tape to laboriously code in the simplest mathematical functions. Now look what we do. I sometimes think of the web as a bit of Oz, with the wizard pulling the strings behind the magical world that we see. So come this July 20th, I’ll take time to reflect on the changes over the past 40 years, from sitting all day on the floor of a friend’s house, watching a fuzzy old black and white television, while a man stepped onto the moon’s surface, to now, with the world and universe at our fingertips. And I hope to celebrate with friends, in person, with a glass of something appropriate. Thanks for bringing this to mind..

    Lorraine
    http://www.redberryart.ca
    http://notesfromthemiddle.wordpress.com

  • wheelsofire

    I saw it in Munich, at the house of my student-exhange partner, Johannes Biehler. He and his older sisters, along with Frau Biehler and me, watched, transfixed.

    And after ‘one small step’, they broke open a bottle of Sekt, which is German champagne. Because I was a couple of weeks away from my fifteenth birthday I was only given a small glass.
    Then it was off to bed.

    A couple of days later the Mammy rang, and of course, we spoke of Moon landing. So I told her all about it. When i told her I had Sekt for the first time, there was a little gasp, followed by a worrying silence, into which I blurted that I had had the Sekt with both Johannes’ sisters.
    It took a few minutes to clear up the confusion…

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