-“301, 301”, the voice kept repeating. I later realized this has become my number, my name in a world of machine.
A visit at an Ottawa’s McDonald has triggered my feeling of loss and scarce towards #tech. A machine that allows you to order your food and pay your bills in the same time. Evolution? Progress? Definitely YES. However, it comes with a looming lack of human contact with a person calling your number as sole conversation. Is there a reason to be concerned?
Recently I went to a McDonald restaurant to buy some apple pies that I usually enjoy. As soon as I opened the door I was silently greeted by a revolutionary machine. The new robot-cashier. I have to say that despite its silent treatment, the mean machine is very efficient. In no time, my order was made, paid for, and with my receipt in my hand I was waiting for the usually delicious apple pies.
It was my first experience with the robot-cashier, so I was lost in my mind thinking about how the whole time placing the order there was no human contact. I was debating with myself if this was progress or crumbling human relationship when an impatient and loud voice took me back to the living world. ”301; 301”, the voice kept repeating.
I suddenly realized that I drifted from the human rank to the cyborg world. I became a machine that day. I was number 301 for this is the only thing a human voice said to me as I was waiting for my order. I neared the counter to receive my pies, took them and said ‘thank you ma‘….’ but my ‘thank you‘ quickly evaporated in thin air as the person to whom it was addressed had already vanished, probably to ghostly attend to another customer. I left with a sense of loss and confusion.
That’s it. Could this mean the demise of human relationship? We are conceiving technology that does not take into account the human dimension. Instead of making machines that serve us, that help us do better and be better, we are becoming machine ourselves.
How, when, and why did this happen?
To be honest I very often resort to the internet to avoid human contact. Many times I would send an email or a text message to avoid face to face contact, to avoid conflicts or just to spare my so-called precious time. It came to the point where I decide when to talk to people, that I plan everything in my day… time I will devote to family, my day job, to my personal projects, and to other relatives and friends. And I used to call it smart until this visit to McDonald had served as a my wake-up call.
Technology, when used smartly can positively affect the world
Please don’t get me wrong. I am grateful to all great technologies surrounding us, particularly those that enable us to find new, faster, and easier way to communicate. Thanks to technology, we see businesses growth, we travel faster and in better conditions, we work, study at a distance, and most of all we can stay in touch with far away friends and family members.
Similarly, I am grateful to all technologies that foster discovery, improve education, health, and allow me to blog and join several like-minded individuals online to share my thoughts and engage in frank discussions.
However, I can’t help feeling concerned about the overwhelming proliferation of machines that tend to replace human contacts and human communications in all spheres of life.
First there came the phone that enabled speaking at a distance, then chats and emails where you only send a message with no human contacts whatsoever.
Are we even aware of everything we are losing to machine?
Research shows that we are losing our hand-writing, our mathematical skills, our attention, what we focus on, and most of all our humanity. Technology is also negatively affecting our sleep cycles, our reading capacity, our patience, our memory, our relationships with friends and family.
We spend time looking at our devices at the dinner table, family members scarcely have conversation and in the house everybody is in their own little technological bubble, ignoring almost everything about one another.
We are letting ourselves being replaced by machine and becoming machine ourselves.
There may be something positive at the technological horizon.
An article from The Age, a newspaper of the University of Melbourne, presents the research of a Professor who believes that technology, namely cellphone and Pad devices can actually improve relationship.
“Consider a contemporary scenario where parents are telling their children not to bring their mobile phone to the dinner table because we prefer to talk to each other. What if we rethink that scenario and encouraged people to bring their devices to the dinner table in a way that motivates social rapport, well-being and family harmony? This research is where engineering and the social sciences work together and it’s very exciting. ” – Professor Vetere (from The Age).
Bringing devices to the table! How will this improve family time, family relationship? You can have your say here and contribute to this technological discussion on how to make technology more human.
What can we do?
According to UCLA, “people need more face-to-face interaction, and … even when people use digital media for social interaction, they’re spending less time developing social skills and learning to read nonverbal cues”. – Greenfield, director of the CDMC
Readers, this is your cue. Add your say! What else do you think we can do to prevent technology from isolating humans from one another?
How about allowing time to what matters? Family time, friendship, and time for ourselves, outdoors with nature!