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Lighthouse - May, 2019.


Some years ago, Kaleidoscope featured an article about ‘Techno-leapfrogging’. It’s a notion that persons, technology and economies can move themselves forward rapidly by adopting modern systems without going through the intermediary steps. Younger people do this easily because they take what is available now, as their starting point. Ask them what is a ‘brick’ mobile phone and they will have generally no idea. They take the internet, cloud storage and the fact that ‘World Wide Web’ was 30 years old last March for granted. Today the greater majority would be lost without their ‘www’ connection. So, when someone asked the Kaleidoscope team, if we enjoyed being connected, it was a challenge to compare what our social life situation was in 1989 with where we are now.

It will be difficult for some to realise that writing letters or sending a fax, way back then, was the only way to confirm a telephone discussion. However, unlike emails neither could be hacked and compromised. Equally can you imagine standing at a bus stop with nothing to do, where you take advantage of this opportunity to chat with other regular travellers to work? Nowadays many are lost in their isolated world of checking their mobiles. Yes, it is definitely true that we did use our time to interact with what was around us and consider things. Even with this approach some questioned if we were living life too fast. The 19th century acclaimed poet William Henry Davies, in his poem ‘Leisure’, wondered: –

‘What is this life if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

Currently it’s the norm to walk about, ignoring others, with eyes staring down at our mobiles. Many are totally disconnected with their local and social environment, only just about trying to avoid bumping into others. There is certainly no consideration given to ‘standing and staring’, looking at what is going on around them. But what about the person who is not on a mobile? Someone who is looking around? Someone who is checking you out? In such circumstances the whole idea of social interaction is turned on its head. Distraction from our actual environment may mean we miss obvious opportunities whilst, at the same time, we have made ourselves ‘porous’ both visually and electronically.

Those who techno-leapfrog into such a situation have automatically accepted it as being normal. They feel comfortable, even though they are missing out on person to person contact and direct emotional interaction. Being primarily use to social media, staying in touch via mobiles, means they have no basis for comparison with anything else. Mobile communication demands instant responses. Such thoughts are almost ‘peer to peer’ which is why posts are put into the ‘Twittersphere’, ‘Snapchat’ or ‘Instagram’ which are later regretted, when it is too late.

New technology really should come with a warning that we need to reassess and refocus on how we communicate and understand others. In doing so we have to set aside a basic human characteristic of using body language and facial expressions as a way of interpreting what is really meant. Even Facebook or Skype video are restrictive in emotional terms. It is true that you can actually sense and smell fear and you can’t do this by video!
For those who believe that new technology is the next best thing since sliced bread, then perhaps it would help to consider how things have advanced since 1989. Apply the same rate of change and reasoning to where we are now and try asking yourself: –

“If Google, Apple and Amazon have us talking to them now, who will be listening and reacting to what we say in 30 years’ time?”

‘Hi Alexa set the alarm for 6am’ – ‘Hi Alexa play some Bollywood music’, sound innocent enough but it’s been reported that these messages are being stored and examined. Children love playing with dolls and ‘Barbie’ now interacts and build-ups responses with their very young owners. This is where human bonding starts to be replaced with technology and our lives become porous. We have started to leak out information, to others, without realising it. You may be reassured to know that tech companies apparently only listen selectively to your voice, on the basis that they can use information to improve their product. However recent reports, that some share voice clips without your knowledge, must be cause for future concern. Giving out personal information, without your realisation, means your home is no longer your castle because your walls have become porous. Technology is listening in; on the basis it is there to be your assistant.

Maybe as we reach for the future, we should keep a firm eye on how porous are our lives becoming. After all if things progress too far, we may reach a stage where is it too late to hanker for ‘Leisure’ where: –

‘We have no time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
A poor life this, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare’.

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