While I was attending public school when I was a child, I remember being tested on the definition of technology. At the time, the definition of technology could be summed up as using human knowledge to create tools that would make life easier. As of recent, I can’t help but think that this definition has changed, and that technology is now being used to make our lives more disrupted and distracted.
I often think about out ancestors and how at the beginning of human civilization, inventions such as the wheel were created to make life easier for those who labored. Inventions were the product of humans using their newly evolved thinking skills to create tools that would help them reduce the time needed for physical labor.
I’m not sure why humans have this innate curiosity or tendency to create things, but I think that what may have been going through the minds of many people when creating these early inventions were that the tool would give them more time to focus on things that they valued. Without the need to have to spend all day tending to the fields thanks to newly created agricultural tools, laborers could spend more time with family and their hobbies.
Now we fast forward to today’s time and I see that the advancement of technology has taken another road. Perhaps it’s due to our economic system of incentivizing profits above all else, but new discoveries in technology almost always seem to benefit those who are trying to advertise or sell a new product.
Recall the advancement of facial recognition with Facebook. While building an algorithm that can detect faces sparks interest in me out of sheer curiosity, the reason for developing and researching this algorithm is so that Facebook can auto-tag its users in photos. When, as a user, you are auto-tagged, you may get a notification and you click to see what photo you are in. This is ultimately so that users spend more time on the platform, meaning the user sees more ads and Facebook receives more profit.
With advancements in technology seemingly progressing only in order to make the masses addicted to products, I have begun to also think about general productivity and relaxation.
After working on a hard task or coming home from work, I find that I would like to relax. However, after taking a short break from social media and games, I find that these activities aren’t exactly relaxing. I think that the cultural mindset that after working you need to “relax” is recent and has only come about due to the rise of the internet and addictive technologies. Before television, what did people do to relax? They would read, go on a walk, or – God forbid – “work” on a hobby. While I can’t say for certain, I think that, as humans, we can output more than what we think we can. It is only because of these new technologies that we want to indulge in mindless entertainment after work, when in actuality, we do have enough energy in the tank to work on that side-project we have always been wanting to do.
I’ve been thinking recently that these new technologies are dulling the human spirit and our natural curiosity for the world. If we think about all the great people that have come before us, those who have invented and sought out science, they did it out of curiosity, not for an immense amount of profit. With the advent of the internet, social media, and unlimited TV series, we have had our brain hijacked by addictive, easy-to-do activities. I often wonder if our brain can naturally allow us to persevere through the hard times of learning a new hobby. It could be that we can very easily progress through the hardships of, for example, learning the guitar, but it is because our brains have adapted to the easy-to-obtain dopamine provided by these low-energy entertainment tasks that we find it impossible to do something “hard” without retreating to our social-media apps.
The changes that I am beginning to make in my life revolve around removing extraneous entertainment activities. Instead of watching TV or playing video games in my personal leisure time, I would like to grow as a person and fuel my natural curiosity. There are so many skills I would like to learn before I die, and I really doubt I will regret not watching the entirety of star wars on my deathbed. My regrets would likely be that I never took action to reign in my life and focus on activities that actually give me value.
None of this is meant to be “true”, just some thoughts that have been weighing in on my mind.