Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Matrix of Technology.

Today's post is inspired by a recent article on WSJ Are Smart Gadgets Making Us Dumb?  And what better day to write about technology than on the Pi day. Today is 3.14! 

My opinion, I like technology that makes it simple, but not effortless.  There are many definitions of technology, but I am sure we all agree that the purpose of technology is to make things more efficient, safer and productive and not necessarily brainless. 

It all started with the Arpanet, moving on to the Internet, then we had the GPS wave, smart phones and today we have everything from hats that measure your IQ to sleeping bra's that can help detect early breast cancers. Technology has without a doubt changed the world we live in. We are connected to something or someone every waking and sleeping second.  The information era has allowed us to move from acquaintances and friends to 2nd level and 3rd level connections. Connectivity and social presence is a part of one's net worth now.

How much technology do we need though? That's something to think about.  Do we really need a refrigerator that tells us our food is going stale or a trash can that decides how much food was wasted or recycled and then update the FB status to announce to the world and maybe even award or punish us real time. Maybe the innovators and early adopters do, for being a part of the moment. To me, its not much value added, it in fact, if anything makes me think less. 

By no means am I trying to undermine the importance and value addition technology has made to our lives. The immense progress in health care has saved many lives and allowed for a more secure and faster communication with the doctor that saves time by avoiding going to the hospital for routine questions, bringing down the global barriers of communication has allowed schools in rural areas access to resources and education like never before and  many of us know and understand the convenience of Amazon Prime. This and much more would not have happened without technology.

At the same time, I do believe every gadget is not necessarily a smart tool. I was at the ever popular mom store Bed Bath and Beyond, and saw something called a Banana Slicer, it's basically a chopping contraption with a USP stating chopping food is not every one's forte and this makes it easy. To each his own, but I think time, effort and money could have been better used. The same is true for many technological advancements. Came across an article that talked about Porta Potties, that collect data on how long a person spent and whether the person was standing or sitting. I am still trying to identify industries that have extensive use of such data.

Which brings me to the other baffling question about technology, Who does what with all this Data?

Privacy issues prevent companies from releasing any or all data even to those who created the data. There is enough research out there to show how easy it is for a knowledgeable person to blend the offline and online data to find traits and information about any person. The famous FB like button is close to omni-present and a simple like has the capacity of releasing a lot of important information.  I agree sharing this information can help improve functionality in many industries.  However, there needs to be a mechanism so the ultimate owner of the data is the consumer and not the company that has it.

The guru's predict a world where everything will be connected, can you imagine the amount of binary numbers flowing through the grid? We all will have our own e-identity prints. And after a century, what happens to this data.  The generation then, might use it in place of history books OR they might simply say its redundant and chuck it away into a cyberspace trash bin, thus deleting our e-identities or existence.

I love this image. Googled it :-)
It's scary and thought provoking at the same time
I know what you're thinking, I am a laggard when it comes to technology.  It's quite the contrary. I love the fact that I can now communicate faster with my parents half a world away, I don't have to hold a map and drive at the same time, I can research any topic under the sun and most importantly technology allows me to work from home. I like technology but within reason. 

We come back to the same question, How much is enough? Do we really need to be connected all the time. Do I really want my tea kettle telling me that the grid is over loaded, so maybe I should wait for a little bit for that cup of tea, or do I really want the weighing machine to be connected to my FB account, so it updates my status as a way of motivating me.  While all these idea's and concepts seem "cool,"it is important to note that they take away from the very necessary element of my existence; human interaction and prevents me from using the very skills that make me human.  Human beings are social animals. We "need" interaction, there is a reason we learned how to walk on two legs from four.  We, including myself am guilting of texting while in the presence of friends or family. Why are we so eager to update our social status or tag a photo? It is this need of social connectivity that is leading the current generation of innovations

On researching further on the "Why" or causes of these innovations, interestingly, I read many an article stating that the visionaries of future see this world broken in many places. There are inefficiencies that they believe technology can help improve.  They also see how eager we are to announce to the world, where we ate, where we shop and more. The combination is our world where we are constantly clicking and swiping. 

Remember the 1900's when he first gasoline powered cars were introduced and it was predicted that the bicycle is now a thing of the past. 1900's to today; 2013,  it's not been that long and as one world, we are all trying very hard to move towards mass transportation, walk more, and if possible even bike to everywhere.  

I see something similar happening with technology.  Soon in our life times, I believe we will see the day when one smart country will announce an e-free national day. A day when they go back to doing it all with paper and pen and many a smart entrepreuners' will teach the world how to write and talk again.

Like life, the cycle of technology will come a full circle too. 

It has to happen, for if it doesn't "The Matrix" will move from fiction into the reality zone. 

Happy Birthday Mr. Einstein.


  1. Agree with you on every last word. I am in the camp which feels we have too many gadgets and definitely don't want my referigerator telling me I am low on milk and eggs. Kiran

    1. Kiran, good to see you here.

      I think we are all in an information overload and do realize it. But maybe its our surroundings, or maybe its the peer pressure, we have this intense need to connect 24x7x365. And that goes for me too. I now make an effort to not log on and some days it does actually work. So I have hope :-)