The dark side of technology

Hello everyone!  We your Sterling Creations Accessibility team would like to end your week with a very somber article.  One that focuses on the darker side of technology.  An article that speaks about how technology is affecting our lives in a negative way.  For believe it or not, technology can be easily described as a double edge sword.

We urge you to read this very insightful point of view.
We bid you a pleasant day.
Your Accessibility team
The dark side of technology
David Ljunggren
Ottawa Citizen , Jan. 8, 2009
Perhaps 2009 will be the year when we turn away from our computers and start
learning to think for ourselves when we run into trouble. I hope so, because
otherwise we’re all going to morph into zombies who know only one thing: how
to access the Internet.
In mid-October last year I happened to sign into an e-mail account I rarely
use and discovered a message from a major New York radio station which
wanted to interview me about the upcoming election. By then I’d missed the
deadline to talk to them but thought I’d call up to figure out why they
hadn’t done a better job of tracking me down. The producer was polite and
friendly — and young.
It turned out that she’d looked me up on Google and discovered that one of
the first listings for me had a particular e-mail address, so she fired off
a message. And that was all she’d done — she gave up when I didn’t respond
quickly. This really bugged me, since I am not a hard person to trace. So I
asked her why she hadn’t called directory inquiries to find my home number.
“Oh, who does that any more?” she said with a little laugh. So for want of
two very basic tools — a little imagination, some knowledge of how the
world works — bang went the station’s interview. The fact that I remained
unfound means the producer must have a really lenient boss. A real
professional would have told her: “This guy lives in Canada. People there
are easy to find. Try again.”
At the same time I also received an interview request from the youth
programming section of an Austrian radio station. And yes, the producer
there had also made the minimal effort, typing my name into Google and
sending off a single e-mail. Much more of this and you’ll find me on a park
bench feeding the squirrels, stroking my beard and muttering about young
folks today.
For me, one of the most important skills is the ability to improvise. If
your attempts to uncover news or find an individual hit a brick wall, you
have to know how to get round it. Typing entries into Google only gets you
so far. You need some imagination too — this, for example, is why our
office is filled with out-of-date phone books. Mr Smith’s number is unlisted
today, but was there an entry for him a few years ago? Let’s take a look.
At home we limit our daughter’s access to the computer, in part because we
want her to learn to think for herself. A few weeks ago she came home with a
school project, complaining that her class had been banned from looking up
any information on the Internet. Give that teacher a bonus, I thought. We
went to the library and — how inconvenient — not all the facts she needed
were in one book. So she had to get out several, reminding her how to work
without instant access to everything she needs.
Computers and the Internet are fantastically convenient but I wonder what
long-term effect they will have on the way our brains are wired. If you can
always do what you have to in the most efficient way, never being forced to
work out solutions to complicated problems yourself, what happens when the
power goes out one day? In a thousand years’ time, will we still have the
ability to think as imaginatively as we do today?
I recently drove down to Buffalo with a friend to see a football game. I
asked him whether he had directions to get there. “No need for that, I have
maps and a GPS system on my BlackBerry,” he replied. The cursor showed our
position to within a few yards and steered us all the way there and back
without a hiccup. It was addictively convenient — and scared the heck out
of me.
One day this could make map reading obsolescent and I don’t think mankind
needs to be forgetting how to read a map. A road atlas doesn’t need a
battery but you do have to know how to use it. Over the centuries we’ve done
a fantastic job of inventing things to make our lives easier: electric
lights, cars and hospitals, to name just a few. But I’m not sure we should
be trying to short-circuit our own brains.
Most complex organizations have a back-up system built in and there’s a very
good reason for that — you don’t ever want to be in a position where you
can only do a certain thing one way. Learning how to work and think more
indirectly and with more imagination takes time and may seem inefficient in
this modern era but one day your life could well depend on it.
David Ljunggren’s column appears every other week.
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About Donna Jodhan

Donna Jodhan is an award winning blind author, advocate, sight loss coach, blogger, podcast commentator, and accessibility specialist.
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