I recently attended TEDxSonomaCounty. The theme of the event was, “Trending Now.” This event featured a plethora of thought leaders and futurists discussing the not so distant future. In sum, the Internet of Things become ubiquitous, nanobots inside you make you a better you, drones solve many problems and create many more, clandestine civilian spying becomes even more Orwellian, public-private-partnerships begin mining the moon, machines/robots develop ethical and empathetic abilities, and humans start building relations with their bots. Wait, mining the moon? Robot judges? Devices in my what to make me a better human?
Throughout the event I found myself becoming increasingly uncomfortable. It finally struck me: we have gone too far.
Look around. Do we really need more devices? Does the incredible potential of all this uber technology really outweigh the consequences?
Last week, I went to dinner with a friend. As we gazed around the room, most couples were engaging with their cell phones, not each other. On the 10 planes I was on last month, a majority of my flight mates were all staring at a screen, not engaging with one another. As I walk down the street, I find myself dipping and dodging as device-focused folks walk around disconnected from, and oblivious of their surroundings.
Yeah, some of these cell-holes are Millennials. And some are Gen Zers. And some are Gen Xers. And some are Boomers. The point is, we are all guilty. I highlight this because this is what our culture is becoming.
I increasingly find our detachment from one another, from the present moment, from our ability to focus on our surroundings frightening. We are all very busy thanks to the hyper-connectivity we enjoy, but are we deeply happy? I am led to believe that all these great devices distractions are making us less connected not only to one another, but even more distressing, to ourselves. We are moving in the wrong direction, away from compassion, happiness, from human-to-human connection. These are traits that humans are uniquely suited to exploit. Furthermore, these are traits that our world desperately needs right now.
Thank goodness we have choices.
We have the choice to leave the device in the car when out to dinner. The choice to strike up a conversation with the stranger beside us on the bus. The choice to not check the phone when with friends.
What makes us humans so uniquely spectacular is our ability to connect. To observe, touch, talk, listen and create together. To make art, love, music, movement, fire and tools together. Our devices are moving us away from what we do best as humans. What we do best is finding our meaning, purpose and passion. What we do best is our source of joy and connection to our collective humanity. These tools, these devices are mind boggling, literally! These devices are hundreds of times more powerful than the human brain, yet we do not even know the full potential we hold in our pink matter. What scares me is our over reliance on these devices, and the simultaneous deviation from reliance upon our innate, human tools.
I know the train has left the station in regards to Moore’s Law and technology and I believe we humans need a counterbalance to retain our individual sanity and our shared human experience. We need more primal contact; more group singing and dancing, more potlucks, more conversations, more deep listening, more hugs, handshakes and handholds, more fresh air, more down time, more talking to strangers, more paper and pens, more family time, more forgiveness, more music making, more humanity and less technology.
There I said it. I love my technology and the life it enables me to lead. Recently I have noticed it has been more of a distraction and distortion of the life I wish to lead than a support. I am not a Luddite. I am a human and I want to be with other humans. Don’t worry, I can still be reached via text, email, call, twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and if you really want to connect, let’s take a hike, eat a meal, play some disc golf and relish in some old fashioned humanism.