It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Do you use Fitbit? As a runner, I find it amazing that I can track my distance and time, estimate my calorie consumption, receive periodic live progress reports, coordinate a playlist of songs, set goals, and more all for free. But it can't run for me.
While running recently using the this app on my iPhone, it struck me I was wearing on my bicep a computer more powerful than the mainframes my father worked with in the early 1970s. Think about it. You are carrying around more computational power than an engineer working on satellites had at his disposal 40 years ago. And his took up a large room.
Yet as I write this the search for a lost Malaysian Airlines passenger jet continues. Despite advanced avionics, it disappeared without a trace. G-d willing it will be found and the passengers will be safe. If so technology will aid the recovery. But it did not prevent the mystery.
Technology Changes, People Don't
Technology does wonderful things. But often is seduces people into thinking that life has radically changed. Note:
1. Wonderful: You now have numerous means of communication including telephone, texting, social media, and VOIP. The Wall Street Journal pointed out that WhatsApp charges 99¢ per year for a service that on a cell phone costs multiple times that much per month. The means of international communication keep growing and the cost keeps declining.
But: Technology cannot tell you when to reach out to a friend or the right words to say. I had a friend leave me a phone message a couple of days ago. He intuited from something I posted on Facebook that I needed someone to reach out to me. No app can replace the human connection we share nor the feeling one of us gets that we need to initiate contact.
2. Wonderful: Advances in medical technology have lengthened the average human lifespan. Diseases that previously would have killed a baby now allow people to live into their teens and beyond. The quality of their physical life is superior to anything that a person with a debilitating condition would have experienced in past decades.
But: Technology has not improved doctors’ bedside manner. Many people, especially the elderly, continue to be engulfed by loneliness. Apps cannot replace the comfort of a robust spirituality. All of these require empathic human interaction and faith in the existence of something beyond the physical world.
Technology is the chocolate coating, delicious, making what it encases easier to swallow. But life cannot exist on chocolate alone. You have to learn to enjoy the bitter sweetness of the strawberry. The greater opportunity to express your humanity through technology comes at the price of potentially separating you from your loved ones. Technology can provide the means but does not replace the day in, day out work of improving your life.
Where else in your life does technology seem to have more of an impact than it actually does?
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