Technology is absolutely everywhere. No matter where you look, there are signs of it. I recently spent time walking bird trails at a local historical monument, but the people visiting weren’t looking for birds. They were looking for Pokémon. They were so absorbed in their little screens they couldn’t see nature and history surrounding them.
But Pokémon is not to blame, nor is this an isolated incident. Increasingly, humans rely on technology at every turn, from automatic doors to self-flushing toilets. Much of this technology, smartphones included, is very useful. At the same time, it distracts people from what they’re doing—motor and location wise—to the point where injury can occur.
If we’re going to use technology rather than be used by technology, there are some choices we have to make.
Who’s Using Whom?
In most situations, we’d like to think our tools serve our interests. We must be careful to ascertain whose interests are being served with modern technology. Sure, your phone can take pictures, communicate with anyone across the globe, give directions and do any number of other utilities. But what else is that device doing?
Whether you know it or not, smart technology acts as a huge information magnet. Everything you do online is transmitted and remembered in some way or another by big corporations. Their interests sometimes align with your own, but in general their interest in to sell you something. At times that’s okay; good inventions can show us there are things we never even knew we wanted.
If you’re truly concerned about such data collection, you might consider taking steps to keep yourself from being a walking target for advertising. One surefire way to throw both companies and hackers off your trail is to use internet-enabled devices with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) installed. Because VPNs encrypt your connection and make you anonymous, your data becomes all but worthless.
You’ll find that services offered by Google, Microsoft and Apple usually come with options as well. Google can personalize ads and suggestions based on data you allow it to collect, but you can opt out of these options, or if you don’t browse while logged into an account, even better.
A Different Kind of Technology
It would be foolish to suggest we can stop the march of progress; new technology is certain to become part of our lives. While it’s possible to vote with your wallet and simply not purchase new technology, there are plenty of consumers who don’t see it as a problem. Rather than fight the unwinnable battle, it’s better to ask for more useful, less intrusive tech.
One great example is found in the Pebble smartwatch. At first glance, another technological accessory seems to just be another step toward the dominance of the machine, but such a tool actually liberates you from many problems associated with a smartphone. Simple notifications and rumbles alert you to phone calls and notifications.
The benefit is in not having to pull your phone out and look at it unless it’s really important. More than anything, Pebble’s contribution to technology should serve as a model for all new gadgets (something Samsung and Apple still haven’t learned). Technology should enrich what we do, not replace it.
Are you the master of your technology, or do the roles sometimes get reversed? Tell us what you think about the smart era in the comments section below.