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.