Showing posts with label mobile phones. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mobile phones. Show all posts

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Are Smart Phones Making Fools of Us All?

In this age of smartphone technology, most people are distracted pretty much most of the time. Constant inattention can and will have serious implications for this and future generations.

Many people are not aware of the fact that they are almost constantly distracted. We tend to have an almost addictive need for some kind of emotional engagement and smartphones fill this need on a number of different levels, very effectively. In fact, they have been designed with just this 'need' in mind. 

Various kinds of social network messaging, digital games, news and or information feeds can keep us engaged for inordinate amounts of time and in one way we may feel more connected than ever before and yet, ironically, the levels of disconnection in our societies and among our young people are higher than ever before.

As artificial intelligence begins to penetrate our lives in various subtle and invasive ways we would do well to take into account what this can mean and how it can affect the way we live. 

There are not many of us who have not experienced the frustration of trying to sort out a problem on the phone and having to deal with a digital answering service.

Certainly, the changes now taking place are unprecedented in both the speed with which these technologies are being developed and the manner in which they will completely change our mode of living. 

I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.

These words have been attributed to Albert Einstein but regardless of whether this is, in fact, true or not, they are relevant and sound out as a clarion call. May we wake up in time and shake ourselves out of our zombie-like infatuation. It appears that a whole, vast section of humanity is sleepwalking. Will we look up from our devices long enough to actually notice that we are distracted in the first place and from what we are distracted in the second? 

It is not that this is anything particularly unique to our current civilisation. As says the Biblical injunction; 'there is nothing new under the sun.' We may think we are on the cutting edge of technologies that have never before seen the light of day and yet countless civilisations have passed through this earthly realm and the remnants of their passing are a continuing cause of wonder and mystery to many in this current day and age. 

Whatever the mind is capable of dreaming up and even what has not yet been dreamed, all these things are possible and can and will become manifest in due course of time, if the will to manifest them arises. This is the innate power of the mind.

What has not changed, however, is our perpetual state of 'distraction' in one form or another. The fact is that these emerging technologies can capitalise on this apparent human weakness to target and harvest our attention on a massive scale never before witnessed. We should all be alert to the implications of this.

What we see happening now with the rise of modern technologies which have quickly become seemingly indispensable to the vast section of humanity in just the brief space of a few decades, is at base just more of the same old, same old... There may be a new look, a new flavour, a new brand, but strip that all away and our basic human instincts continue to propel us all in the same old direction.

We can dress up our confused emotions, we can varnish over the fundamental impulses which propel us through life, but century after century, decade after decade and day after day, they remain intact and they are the motivating force behind all that is manifest in this world. This is and remains the case as much now as it was a thousand years ago.

What is troubling now is the fact that this trend is being directed by a tiny minority. If we lose our 'attention,' we lose our power. If we are not aware of or have never considered what impact the current technologies are having on our human civilisations then it is certainly time to become aware now!

As long as we remain subject to the ebb and flow of our hopes and fears we cannot know our true inner freedom and at this time and in this age we are so vulnerable en-mass to being manipulated by a minority. 

The sheer scale of what is taking place, virtually unnoticed, is indeed a cause for concern. When a minority is capable of quietly manipulating whole populations for gain and profit can we call this anything other than a negative trend?

When a whole civilisation appears to be sleepwalking towards a precipice we do indeed face a grave danger.

Is it not intrinsically against the whole ideal of democracy to intentionally keep the mass of humanity distracted by what is unimportant? If we create devices that are geared to monopolise our attention and keep it focused on the trivial instead of the vital we can imagine what the outcome might be.

Don't we have a moral obligation to wake up and notice what is really happening here? It is up to each one of us.

And there is a tapping at the door of our awareness. The inmost core within each and every one of us is trying to get through, trying to jolt us out of our torpor.

Do you ever get the feeling that something is missing in your life?
You should trust that feeling because it is a true one. Something is missing in your life. It's called 'attention.'

If our attention is hijacked by a mobile phone or some other kind of smart device do we not then become the plaything of that device or thinking which has created it? Where is our cherished freedom if our ability to avoid the subtle manipulation, inherent in the designs of modern technological innovations, is woefully inadequate.

There is something infinitely more dangerous about an addiction which slips into our lives unnoticed. Modern technologies exploit people's impulses thereby robbing them of the ability to choose wisely. 

Have you ever heard of the term, 'persuasive design'? Until very recently I hadn't either. I have, however, long suspected that our very modern deficiency of attention or perhaps we could term it; partial attention syndrome is a very insidious new-age kind of illness with momentous implications. Are we not distracted most of the time?

Persuasive design is a term that describes any kind of technology that has been created with the intention of grabbing people's attention and holding it. It involves the subtle art of subversively
capturing our interest, overpowering our attention and bringing it back repeatedly to that thing, whatever that may be.

If we are beginning to recognise this trend then it is none too soon. The problem is, that even upon recognising this very recent affliction we are nowhere near addressing and or managing it.

Learning to pay attention to our attention is a very crucial piece of advice. It points to something utterly fundamental about our existence.

Do we really notice what is going on around us if we are distracted? We lose our inherent freedom the moment our attention is compromised. Smartphones are not only very efficient in creating a 'vacuum' in our lives, but they are equally efficient in seeming to fill that vacuum as well.

The moment our concentration is directed towards something or other, then, at that moment, whatever it is that we are perceiving becomes our 'world.' 

This is what is meant by the spiritual dictum that we so often hear and yet fail to truly understand. Namely; nothing has an inherent existence in and of itself. Another way of saying this is; whatever our mind is drawn to, that is our reality at that moment.

If something or someone hijacks our attention we become little better than automatons, walking zombies moving past one another in the vast ocean of time and space, scarcely even aware of each other or of the fact that we exist at all.

We don't need any evidence that this is in fact already the case, we have proof of it in every direction that we may turn our gaze in our so-called modern and technological societies. These technologies have entered our lives and are completely and utterly changing the ways we live and think and behave.

We urgently need to become aware of just how pervasive and insidious these changes really are.

In our so-called 'money economy' it is regarded as perfectly acceptable to manipulate people's attention in order to capture that attention and direct it towards a 'product.' Isn't this the very basis of capitalism?

Therefore capitalism is geared towards exploiting human vulnerabilities for monetary gain. Smartphones have already become tools of mass manipulation on a scale, the likes of which we have not seen before. This is a deeply worrying trend and deserves our thoughtful attention.

Ultimately all of this leads to nothing but a profound and insidious d
isconnection from who and what we really are.

If we are not in control of our attention, then something or someone else is... We can be absolutely sure that if we feel that something is missing in our lives, it most assuredly is our attention.

In days to come we will be forced to grapple with this problem  head-on. Given how pervasive our distraction has already become, this will be a mammoth undertaking.

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
Albert Einstein

And herein lies our salvation if we can in fact rise to the challenge.  We will have to recognise what has always been nearest and dearest.

It has become an urgent necessity to expand our vision beyond the current distraction and pre-occupation with smart devices of one kind or another, towards what is fundamental to our very existence.


Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Digital Dilemmas, Part 2 (How we are Affected Physically)

What can be said about the physical impact of the digital age in which we live? Its effects are so far reaching that there are very few areas of our lives, our homes and our workplaces which are not in some way affected.

Lets start with the good stuff, and there is plenty of it depending on ones point of view.  Naturally we can't mention everything but in broad terms we see things like, instant communications, easy access to information, and inter-connected-ness on a scale that is unprecedented. Ease of online services such as banking, travel bookings, online shopping etc far exceed anything we ever had in recent history.

Computers and the digital technology that powers and automates so many of the functions which we now take quite for granted; in fact virtually the entire infrastructure of our modern world, especially in western economies, is based upon recent cyber technologies.

The potential for life changing innovations continues to emerge at a dizzying pace and is undeniable. Automated cars are already on our roads.There is currently technology in development for a car/plane as a viable mode of personal transport. This would be a computerised car cum drone. Safer, swifter and more comfortable than anything we now have to get us from A to B and all automated of course! There are many, many other positive developments due to technological breakthroughs from health and transportation to education and instant information. The list could go on and on.

The bad stuff.  Physically the lives of those who spend a lot of time on  personal computers or at gaming or who work from some form of web based technology are far more sedentary than would have ever been possible in the past. These technologies have also become part of institutional education from primary through to college and on wards giving rise to all manner of health problems and psychological issues in our up and coming generations.

While we appear to be more easily contactable more and more people are actually alone with their devices than not. Take the ever increasing instances of when family or friends are sitting together in a restaurant, or at home, ostensibly to share a meal together and yet all the while busily tapping out messages or fiddling with something on their smartphones and quite oblivious of one another.

We may be able to easily contact one another and be wired into a whole planetary network of information and instant 'news' and yet our 'personal space' is also routinely invaded 24/7 by mobile technologies along with their electromagnetic radiations.

There are surveillance issues that are genuinely worrying despite the fact that we are told that we are 'watched' for our own good.

IDs are quickly moving towards using bio data that imprints our iris configurations and encodes our finger prints. One by one countries are beginning to phase out passports in favour of online bio data.

Here in India, of all places, I had my iris encoded along with finger prints in an ID process that is currently taking place all over the country. These days in India, even a Sadhu living on the street, has an Aadhaar Card with all his bio-metric details encoded into it.

Getting my own card sorted was a surreal experience. There i was sitting in this dusty office, the paint was peeling off the walls, the fans were outdated and whirring loudly above our heads. There was book work and papers all around the walls stacked in untidy piles from door to door. The electricity went out while i was there and we had to wait until the back up generator kicked in. The fellow taking my details was making dozens of spelling mistakes and there was a constant stream of village people coming and going. It was all thoroughly incongruous and more than a little disconcerting.

What are the privacy issues at stake here? It would appear that privacy is a thing of the past and simply not possible in this new age of digitisation.

On another tack, one question I often have in mind is; what if there is a massive solar flare? Few seem to even be aware of how vulnerable our technologies are to extra planetary events which are taking place constantly and over which we have absolutely no control. These solar flares have incapacitated electrical grids in various countries during recent years and there is no reason why it won't continue to happen. We are currently in a solar minimum cycle but even so, events of cataclysmic proportions are going on continuously on our sun to say nothing of other events taking place throughout our solar system and beyond.

Once again it is not possible in a short article to give an exhaustive list of all the disadvantages but we must mention one that is yet to be fully understood and very likely will become extremely controversial in the years to come.

This is the long term effects of the low level electromagnetic radiations which are constantly bombarding not only us, but every living thing within their radius.

Can most of us go for a day without coming into contact with a mobile phone, a pc, a micro-wave or a cell phone tower...? These towers are perched on the top of buildings, in the midst of the most densely populated areas of our cities and towns. We also see the infrastructure for these towers marching up hills sides in even very remote locations, although now most of the technology is being moved to satellites orbiting the planet.

What about Wi-fi radiations that so many and by the day more and more people are bringing into their homes? We are exposed to these radiations in a different form also from household items that we barely blink at now such as hair dryers, T.Vs and even fluorescent lights.

Some would say that this kind of talk arises from paranoia but the fact is that recent research is overwhelmingly proving that
the electromagnetic radiations that are emitted from the electronic devices that we use every day, to say nothing of the cell phone towers and all the other transmitters that exist within our proximity, have long term and insidiously detrimental health effects.

The physical implications of long term exposure to electronic radiations are only just beginning to be uncovered, at least to the main stream public. Cell phone operators have long known of the dangers of their devices and their towers and they have managed to wrangle legislation with law makers that will protect them from future liability related to the use of their products. It has even been rumoured that these same companies have endeavoured to bring in a legislation that would make it compulsory to sign an agreement prior to purchasing; an agreement that would exclude them from the possibility of being dragged into a law suite at any time in the future!

All of this is a loaded bomb waiting to explode, the clock is ticking, its just a matter of time..!

The dilemma.  How do we balance our increasing dependence with the long term implications of using digital technology?  Do we even have the option of trying to do something? The physical implications are alarming and the research and resulting data that is beginning to emerge is likely to be only the tip of the ice berg.

What are the emotional, mental and spiritual implications? One can easily begin to see just how completely pervasive the effects of our digital age really are. The sooner we expand our awareness and understanding of these, the better.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Digital Dilemmas Part 1

The Ways in which technology 
continues to improve communication


Those of us who have been around for more than twenty years know very well just how pervasively modern technology, particularly that of personal computing and mobile phones, gaming and electronics in general, have changed our lives. We have seen these technologies revolutionise the way we do just about everything and all of this has come about in a comparatively short amount of time.

I well remember the days when letters to my mother in New Zealand would take around two to three weeks to arrive from India and then the turn around was often the same if not longer. It would take weeks to exchange our news and by the time the letters arrived, the news was well and truly out of date.

Probably not too much has changed with postal timings except that we hardly ever send letters these days, preferring the instant messaging of email and whatsapp. I even remember the wind up telephone in my grand parents house and the 'party line' that was shared with other Motueka residents. One would pick up the mouth piece, turn the handle a few times and hear a voice saying; 'what number please?' Although mail is still very much in use other forms of communication are quickly falling into disuse and becoming the dinosaurs of recent technology.

From shopping and banking through to how we access information, how we read, how we interact, even how we work, these changes have infiltrated every level and facet of society. There are not many areas of our lives now that are not in some way touched by the innovations of the digital age.

We older folk, were well acquainted with the good old days of snail mail and land lines and my generation is by no means 'old.' We knew all about waiting in cues at the library in order to borrow a certain book. The days of newspapers and telegrams and fax machines, of trudging to the bank and standing in the line waiting for a teller to transact our business, these were all very much a part of day to day reality. Now, there are so many ways in which computers and mobiles have changed our lives in these past few short years that it would take up too much space to mention all of them.

Those of my generation and older could never have dreamt in our younger years that our lives could be changed so dramatically and in such a short time. Yet here we are, using all this stuff as though this is the way things have always been...!

My mother, who is now in her early eighties has wi-fi in her home and never goes anywhere without her mobile phone and her ipad. In recent years when i have gone to visit her i would often rise early in the morning and find her already propped up in bed, a cup of coffee on the side table, her ginger cat curled up nearby and her ipad firmly and squarely in front of her eyeballs.

A whole new 'computer language' has sprung up. Digital technology has moved into our lives and it looks set to stick around. Our greatest challenge now seems to be how keep apace with it.

On a recent trip to Australia I found it particularly frustrating to note how extensively electronic voices have taken over our everyday telephone business communications, how pervasive the electronic voice is at the end of almost all dialling tones, how difficult it is to actually just connect to another human being. With basic services being increasingly digitised the human element is being subsumed by pre-programmed electronic non beings that infer that all transactions must be standardised. Slip out from the stereotypes and you are in trouble.

Being out of society for periods of time and then returning to it again can help to underline the pace of the rapid changes that are sweeping the entire planet.

We would do well to step back occasionally and review the manner in which technology, in all of its various forms, is impacting our lives. This is vital if we want to remain at the helm of our own vessel. Its all too easy to calmly glide into the vortex of an ever more invasive technological society without actually noticing our shift. Many are scarcely aware that we are drifting towards a digital black hole which is about to consume us. Once artificial intelligence takes hold we will be dealing with a whole new ball game.

Those of us already pondering the effects, both positive and negative, of the various types of technology now being developed can at times feel like prisoners on the ramp of a sinking ship, caught between our choice of quick or delayed drowning.
Of course it need not and certainly is not all negative but we would do well to proceed into this period of digitisation with some semblance of conscious awareness.

In the up and coming four articles  we will be examining how technology affects us, what all of this can mean for us and future generations, and how it is impacting the way we live, not just physically but in far more subtle ways.  We will explore what it could bring in the future and why we should take the time to become more aware of the inner effects of the technologies that we use so unquestioningly. There is a fine line drawn between the useful 'tool' and the all consuming one.

There can be no doubt that our digital age has extraordinary and beneficial advantages but nothing in the material world comes to us without a 'price. What is the 'price' of digital technology? Can we offset the dangers by being more aware or are we all inextricably caught up in this seemingly unstoppable electronic tide?

At the end of the day we must observe that digital technology should not be labelled as either good or bad it is simply and unquestioningly a powerful tool.
How each of us responds to and makes use of this 'power' is really up to us. It places us each in a position of responsibility that we can either acknowledge or ignore, but which ever the case may be no part of our lives will remain untouched.

What are the ways in which we are all affected by these modern technologies, not just physically, emotionally and mentally but also spiritually?

(Edited, updated and re-posted from an earlier series of articles originally written 2013)