Information technology – who’s in charge?

canallockNow I’m of an age where I can remember setting out on a car journey with just a map and a good idea of how to get there.  No satnav, no mobile phone and in the car a radio with a cassette player (yes I did say cassette player).  Did I survive? yes.  Did I get there? yes.  But now if I leave home without the mobile it’s ‘what if something happens?  What if someone needs to get hold of me?’  When did our lives become so dictated to by technology or the need to always be in touch?

This musing was sparked by an article I read a few days ago suggesting that the Apple watch and the look alikes were already doomed to obsolescence, that soon we’d have tech small enough to be permanently in our ears, or chips in our bodies, or swallowable tech.  Then there’s the google glasses.  Maybe it’s an age thing but I ask do I want this?  OK, for swallowable I can see how that might help in medicine etc. but this endless desire to always be in touch or on the net?  Are we going to lose the ability to look at a phone, or heavens forbid a hard copy of something?

The other issue for me is do I always want to be connected?  I seemed perfectly happy when that wasn’t possible.  In my previous working life I had tears from one team member when I suggested (strongly) that in my meetings laptops should not be open.  ‘What if my boss wants me?  What if something important happens?’  To which my reply was: ‘has anything ever been so important that you absolutely had to know that second?’  The answer of course was no.  And if something was really that important they’d find you.  It was a drug, an addiction.  I often imagined that person taking their laptop to the toilet with them or sleeping with it – well you never know?

On a time management training course a long time ago it was suggested that you should look at your in-tray (yes it was that long ago) at just a few set times in the day.  Also that for some periods you should send your phone through to answer phone.  The reason being that otherwise they dictate your priorities i.e. the phone rings and that becomes your first priority no matter how trivial the subject of the call.  The same is true of e-mail and let’s face it the majority of stuff we receive can be deleted without even looking at it.

printingSo for me that’s the crux of it.  I can see how clever it all is and the applications of much of it.  However, I feel that more and more the technology is driving our lives rather than our lives driving the technology.  The phone rings we answer it, an e-mail announces itself with a ping, we read it, usually no matter where we are or what we’re doing.  How often are you talking to someone and they interrupt you, the person in front of them, to take a call?  How often are you dining with a group of friends and people have mobiles on the table and then read texts / e-mails?  I play golf with someone who is always looking at his mobile, why?  Sometimes he tells me the football scores of teams I have no interest in!  And then he’s not sure what’s going on – ARRGH!!

Sorry, what started as a comment has ended in a rant.  And of course I’m no saint, or immune to the above either.  But I do wonder how far we will go in letting technology dictate our priorities and our lives?  Or maybe we’ll see sense and there’ll be some counter revolution.  I can but hope.

As always views and comments (or rants) are welcome.

Ian Martyn

Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer

5 thoughts on “Information technology – who’s in charge?”

  1. I haven’t worn a watch since 1967. Try going around for day without one. In the 1970s, I spent a month in a National Park, hiking around, without a watch. I find it rather freeing. My cell phone is rather basic. I only carry it when I’m going somewhere so I can call if I’m detained, either in going or coming back. There are no apps on it. I live in a university town, and have for years. I continue to shake my head when I see two folks on a date, and each one talking on their phone at the same time.

    1. Thanks for the comment. People moan that they can’t always get me on my mobile – I say that’s because I don’t have it on me all the time, I like to set my own priorities.

  2. There is a brilliant Ray Bradbury story called `The Murderer’ written way back in 1953 that covers your feelings perfectly. Some people saw it coming. I still use a map as I find the technology too demanding and distracting. My washing machine and dishwasher and dryer all beep and demand that I tend to them. Let alone the phone

  3. I think all these things have a dark element of control in them. They control your time but also your inner life, they want to steer your thoughts, your priorities. The radio sets a tune to the countryside and gives it a mood, could be nice, but maybe wrong. I go to a pop concert and people just take video constantly to experience it LATER, altered no doubt, tweeked. You walk down the road and most people aren’t really there, they are with a friend or relative or in some gaming world of their own. You can’t enjoy any TV or internet without the crude mind control of adverts or propaganda. Rant over.

    1. Thanks for the comments. I too like a map. A friend of mine was moaning that his daughters (grown up) struggled to read a map and had no appreciation of the relative geography of the UK. Also ranting is allowed, I firmly believe it is therapeutic.

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