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Technology in Our Life: Finding the right balance

Technology touches every aspect of our life in this day and age, from the moment we wake up to the time we go to bed. It has become such an integral part of our life that even our homes are becoming smart homes. If we look around us, there is no part of our life where we do not use some form of technology. At this rate, we will not be the ones using technology anymore, rather technology will use us.

We are connected all of the time. Not only through smartphones, laptops, and PCs, but we use the internet in every machine possible thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). Many cities are embracing the smart city initiative. In Rio de Janeiro predictive analytics has been integrated with cloud-based storage for massive sensor networks [1]. The city of San Jose is collaborating with Intel and South Korea’s Songdo has collaborated with Cisco in order to use IoT linked to city infrastructures to control the flow of traffic, decrease sound pollution, and improve the air quality [1].

It can be presumed that in the near future all that can be connected will be connected. Around 11 billion devices connect to the internet now and this number is projected to nearly triple to 30 billion by the year 2020, and then almost triple once more by 2025 [2]. By 2020 IoT is expected to become a $1.46 trillion market [2].

All of these smartphones, laptops, and other devices and products embedded with sensors, such as smart clothes and smart watches, are purported to improve the quality of our lives. Smart devices will amass thousands of analyses and readings in a short amount of time. Cars are going to be equipped with IoT. Smart homes and smart office will use IoT to make us more connected, secure and productive. But all of these technologies produce a massive volume of data. Some of these data are mundane, like the temperature of the conference room. But other data can be extremely sensitive, like the details of a new business deal. Supermarkets are already using data to predict their customers’ behavior. When a lot more data is available, unscrupulous business owners will be able to use data to render people useless without their products. This massive flood of data can be used to encroach upon privacy, and soon this might encroach on security too. A connected dishwasher can be used as a backdoor and sensitive information about the owner might be stolen by hackers. If the company producing the products is unethical, they can collect information without the knowledge of the user. Cyber-criminals will increase, and they will be able to bring down people or industries quite easily.

There is disagreement about how all of this data is or should be used. If it belongs to the governments, they might use it to create totalitarian societies. If it belongs to businesses, they can use these data commercially to sell more products. Already video game producers and social media owners have processed and used data to get users addicted to their products. Instead of going outside to meet friends, people invite friends from the comfort of their home in the virtual world to play games or spend all day looking at people’s social media news feed [3]. Our generation is already less social than previous generations [4]. People are increasingly becoming dependent on online shopping. Shoppers increasingly prefer automated self-service check-out [5]. At this rate, the future generation might not develop any social skills at all and will rely on technology for everything.

At the same time, some people are craving human interaction. So, now tech companies are trying to provide human interaction using AI. For instance, Wysa is an app that allows people to release stress and anxiety, and it is being called the “4 am friend.” There are many similar apps like Webot, Joyable, and Talkspace which aim to help people deal with mental health issues. So, it’s possible that we are looking at a future where it is normal to have computer applications or robots as friends or maybe even romantic partners [6].

An average American uses electronic media almost 6 hours per day [7]. The problem is, excessive use of mobile devices makes people more prone to depression and also increasingly impatient. Additionally, people’s memory can become impaired as information is stored in different devices [8]. Likewise, because of the use of GPS and other navigation devices, people are losing the ability to use maps or have never learned to read one [9]. It might become impossible for them to navigate without GPS devices. If autonomous cars become the norm, people will not learn to drive. So, for every single mundane task that we rely on technology to do for us, we become more dependent on technology.

It is not bad to use technology. Technology has raised the standard of living in many parts of the world and is projected to do more. While it may have become part and parcel of our day-to-day life, we should not be too reliant on technology. It is important to find balance. Most of the tech giants do not allow indiscriminate use of technology in their own homes, and they especially limit the use of technology when it comes to their children [10]. There must be a good reason for that.

There has been revolutionary growth in the field of technology in the last few decades. Technology is making our life so much easier, but we should not forget the potential risks. If we become too dependent, we might lose the power of critical thinking and innovative nature that helped us invent and design all these things in the first place.

References

[1] Jones, T., and Dewing, C., Future Agenda: Six Challenges for the Next Decade. Profile Books, 2016.
[2] M. Kanellos. 152,000 Smart devices every minute in 2025: IDC outlines the future of smart things. Forbes. (March 3, 2016); https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelkanellos/2016/03/03/152000-smart-devices-every-minute-in-2025-idc-outlines-the-future-of-smart-things/.
[3] U. Saiidi, Social media making millenials less social: Study. CNBC.com. (October 17, 2015); https://www.cnbc.com/2015/10/15/social-media-making-millennials-less-social-study.html.
[4] S. Weiser, Americans are becoming less social. mentalfloss.com. (June 12, 2015); https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/65065/americans-are-becoming-less-social.
[5] Consumers like self-service more than associate interaction, reveals survey, Retailcustomerexperience.com, (January 24, 2018); https://www.retailcustomerexperience.com/news/consumers-like-self-service-more-than-associate-interaction-reveals-survey/.
[6] O. Schwartz, Love in the time of AI: Meet the people falling for scripted robots. The Guardian. (September 6, 2018).
[7] Marvin, R., Tech addiction by the numbers: How much time we spend online. PCMag. (June 11, 2018); https://www.pcmag.com/article/361587/tech-addiction-by-the-numbers-how-much-time-we-spend-online.
[8] Tamir, D. I., Templeton, E. M., Ward, A. F., & Zaki, J. Media usage diminishes memory for experiences. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2018.
[9] R. Reid. Most under-25s can’t read a map because they rely on sat-navs. Cnet.com. (October 10, 2013); https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/most-under-25s-cant-read-a-map-because-they-rely-on-sat-navs/.
[10] S. Berger. Tech-free dinners and no smartphones past 10 pm — how Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Cuban limited their kids. CNBC.com. (June 5, 2018); https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/05/how-bill-gates-mark-cuban-and-others-limit-their-kids-tech-use.html.
[11] A. Gregory. How social media is hurting your memory. Time. (May 8, 2018); https://time.com/5267710/social-media-hurts-memory/.

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