We are currently inundated with an inordinate amount of information much of which is driven by the advancing wave of technology and applications that run on them. From professional interactions to social media, our devices can do more than ever before, and this is just the bare crust of the entire technological mantle of development.
We see new technology everywhere. We see it on our wrists, we see it on our bikes, we see it at the airport, we see it shopping, we see it at the farmer’s markets, we see it in our children’s hands. What is it about connectivity that drives us to push this envelope ever further? What is it in the tech industry that guides us, absorbs our attention, pre-occupies much of our waking days, and sometimes even enrages us with glitches?
What started as a simple rolling wheel, evolved in to a motor company and pioneered in to semiconductors and now beyond wearables, implantables and artificial intelligence. We are driven as a society to learn more and do more and develop our imagination beyond our senses in to a virtual reality prospect on the horizon that may at some point shift our sense and sensibility of real time and touch.
I have sat as many of you have I am sure, at an airport or a train station or a queue somewhere, sometime, someday people watching. Have you ever glanced around and observed all the marvels around you? The sleek suit swiping his wrist to check the time, the yogi with a braid uploading her Fitbit, the kid with the swaying arms navigating the racetrack on his iPad, the grandma laughing at her phone while skyping with her grandkids, the point-of-sale tap by the hipster, the rapper zooming by on his wave board, the banker smashing angry birds? It is truly amazing how pervasive the smallest of inventions have transformed our entertainment.
In another embodiment, it is the life-saving defibrillators posted everywhere in public view that have reduced out-of-hospital deaths. It is the ICU monitoring through telemetry and EMRs that allow medical care to be accessible to any data in real time as we need, to adjust treatment in a dynamic way as never before. It is the GPS that allows a foreign traveler to find her way through the dark night to her destination hostel without missing her exit. It is the live surf feed from a rip curl during competition at Breakers that gets broadcast to audiences all over the world and brings us closer to experiencing something so powerful. It is the climb to the top of the world broadcasted step by step that made the mountains of the world seem smaller. It is the free fall from space and the Mars planning launches that defines success to corporate carriages.
From nanobots to electric cars, we are surrounded by so much technology that is hard to imagine where we will be in 10 years, and impossible to fathom what the next century will bring. In all of these amazing gadgets and gizmos’ buzz, I felt the need to step back for a few minutes and think about what technology means to me and as an extension to us as a people, a society, a person, a human. With artificial intelligence around the corner, it still seems to me that we are waiting in line at the DMV for processing but do not really know where we are driving or even where we want to go.
One thing I have noticed recently, almost as an epidemic, is a passive reluctance to interact with strangers in public places. This seems almost counter-intuitive to our ever-growing population and outreach and the need for human connection. How many times do we smile or say hello and start up a conversation (to a live human being stranger) randomly with someone we do not know, about the weather or sports or anything more or less mundane or exciting. Not often, but sports seems to be a consistent and resilient adhesive. Most of the times, however, we find ourselves catching up on our lives and demands on our platforms instead of taking advantage of travel as a means to discover our world and our people. Instead, we carve out a private personal space, like a cone of silence. Ironically, I am writing this on a packed Caltrain with strangers all around and all I can do is focus on writing this article on my laptop, while the dude next to me plays Go on his phone. My priority in my space is different from his, in that moment, which can be related to our differing values, however they are.
How different we all value technology is a participle of all our different needs and wants, as well as our unique upbringings and backgrounds. We come from different worlds, both figuratively and literally and yet we can all share a common sense of appreciation in technology, in general. How we use various devices or apps is up to us and is defined by our personal and work circumstances and environment. This can change over time, as we grow older, gain maturity, have children, have mid-life crises, or simply get bored. We all have these tugs upon ourselves and our lives, to help us achieve, perform, balance, learn and teach. All of this input and output that we seek helps shape how we value each technological advancement relative to our specific unique desires at any given time.
As I mentioned, our diversity determines our values, and it is these values that help define which technology is critical to us and which app is trendiest. I do not watch much television and so when you enter my living room you will currently find a puny 27” screen – and I only recently got the flat screen version. Does that mean I am behind the times? Does that mean that I am missing something? Not in my mind. I feel like I do not watch video enough to make it worthwhile to make a larger purchase and I want to limit screen time and blue light emissions on my family. Why spend $1500 for something that I would use significantly less than a well-tuned bicycle. In fact, now that I have two kids, I have noticed that even my bicycle does not matter as much as it used to be. I have an older bike that I have less time to use, but I want to make sure that I save enough for my kids’ colleges and the tennis and swim lessons. Will my kids know less because they did not have a big high-resolution television? Will they be less immersed in technology by not having their own iPad and cell phone before they are 5? I personally do not think so. But, that’s just me.
You may think alternatively, however. As a film editor, you may value screenplays and feature films differently than I may, because it is integral to your profession and not just a pastime. As a fitness trainer, your interest in nutrition likely far exceeds the average person who loves macaroons and Smarties. As a programmer, having the fastest mobile Wi-Fi connection on the largest display laptop during your commute may be more important than the type of spandex you wear to yoga. Does that mean each of our values is better than others? Nope. Just different is all. That is the point. Our personal values help define how we look at the world and it is our optics of differentiation and codified genomic sequences in our past and present times that shape what we need and want in life. Technology is no different.
So…How do define value today?
How has value changed over the years?
How do we explain value to our children?
How do we measure value in evolving technology?
How much value does technology impact future generations?
These are important questions to ask but not everyone has the same reasons towards technology because their values are so unique. Some care about whether a technological breakthrough will transform education, healthcare, water quality, poverty, and carbon emissions more than others. Some care about homeless, cancer, disease, pollution, crime, terrorism, and genocides more than others. Some care about climbing down in to a volcano and recording the experience to share their passion for discovery with the world, as part of their desire to explore and teach. Watching a snowboarder cascade down a steep rocky crevasse in the Dolomites was an absolutely fascinating experience, and even if doing that was not something I value enough to do myself, I appreciated it tremendously and made we realize what we can do and achieve if we put our minds to it. I will not likely climb in to a volcano, nor ascend to the top of Everest but I always get excited when I see these clips.
So, even that which each of us values differently from varied perspectives can be shared and appreciated amongst others who may have similar and or different values. This includes successes and failures. Everything matters to everyone in some manner, even if they sometimes result in shocking multi-billion-dollar valuation travesties splashing the headlines. As in gambling, the value of a product may sometimes be better expressed by the potential transformation in human economic terms, rather than the quotient of its demise. In other cases, technology is more valued in its likely durability and development with scalability over the long-term across market blips. That is why diversity in both technology and individuality is key in technological revolutions and flatlines.
Whether driving a lifestyle modification or a virtual experience, the venerable nature of technology must be balanced against relative scales of achievements across spectrums of bits and bytes of thoughts and considerations. The kaleidoscope of purview to be able to step outside of our bounds of enactments, and learn to care and have compassion for other fellow societies of all creed, gender and code, makes humanity a beautiful sight to behold – a marvelous technicolor coat of reality, in and of itself.
New technology will develop.
New technology will innovate.
New technology will transform.
Technology will expand our minds.
Technology will encompass our world.
Will all of this technology be valuable?
Yes, to some but not others. Yes, to many but others few. I am still learning about what I value in technology.
How do you value technology?
Faisal Mirza (DocMirza)