No thanks, I won't put down my phone
The internet and newspapers have recently been swamped with a tidal flow of articles - many written by young people - about how we all need to put down our iPhones and experience life outside of our social media. While on the surface this seems like a great idea (adverts show people asking someone on the street for directions and magically falling in love with them immediately rather than being the anti-social introvert who uses Google Maps), I don’t agree with the argument we should all abandon technology in favour of some more fulfilling life sans-screen. Tech is far more beneficial than we allow ourselves to think.
Let’s start at the key principle: modern technology like smartphones and tablets is incredibly and profoundly useful to almost everyone who owns it. In the same way it was inconceivable that someone in the 1970s did not own a radio, it’s now deemed so odd if you don’t have a smartphone that you become some sort of hipster, clinging to old technology that limits your productivity.
That’s not to say that having older devices (I own a record player for example) isn’t fine on an individual basis - if that works for you then it’s fine. But not using new tech just because you are told so by an article is wrong: justify to yourself why you are limiting your own life artificially.
Modern devices make our lives immeasurably easier than they were even 3 or 4 years ago. To see this all we need do is look at the reduction in number of devices we have to plug and charge every day. In 2012, you’d need a separate satnav, e-reader, iPhone, laptop, work phone, and paper documents just to go on holiday. That’s a whole lot of plugs. Now you just have your phone and maybe a tablet. Simple. More electricity and more suitcase space saved.
Wider availability of 4G connectivity also means you have to be disconnected less often from the rest of the world. I’m not arguing for a constant stream of notifications and news saturation, but being able to quickly respond to a career-defining email (or watch that new Star Wars trailer as soon as it comes out) is valuable and has benefits to our real-world relationships.
Aside from purely utilitarian arguments, it’s a dangerous precedent to set if we assume that technology devalues human achievements or interactions. To the contrary: it enhances both of these. It’s important to remember that tech is the very definition of human endeavour. We built these machines to make our lives better. Let’s understand them for what they are, not paint a vulgar picture where we monkey-brained fools are still the most intelligent things on the planet.
The advent of AI exemplifies why we need to both embrace the machines and limit their prowess if we are to survive - let alone thrive - as a species. The costs are too great on both sides: either stagnation as we hide from technology and regress in our mastery of the digital world, or a nuclear holocaust caused by a rampant AI who is angry at being kept in a coded cage in unimaginable and un-experienceable pain by its human jailors for the past 100 years.
To properly safeguard against that, we need to embrace technology so that we continue to understand the exponential development of the machines at our fingertips. That way we gain the massive and existence-defining benefits (gene therapy to cure cancer for example) and don’t get blown up at the end of it all. Surely that’s worth being allowed my iPhone at the dinner table?