The generation gap, evident from observing the people on my commuter coach journeys, highlights the rapid pace of technological change occurring during our lifetimes.
The girls sitting ahead of me a few evenings ago spent the entire trip entertaining themselves with their mobile phones, comparing photos and sending texts. I could see the thumbs of one girl working feverishly on the tiny keypad, giving a fair impression of a highly animated crab, its pincers going nineteen to the dozen.
In stark contrast, the old boy who proclaims himself to be a Luddite (a label of which he is evidently proud), once ranted at a lady for using her phone on the coach – something that she is quite at liberty to do. I had to go and shut him up in the end (politely, of course), as his astonishing outpouring of rage caused far more of a disturbance than the unfortunate passenger.
Just how far things have changed in the world was brought home to me by two recent articles on MarketWatch. One was concerned with predicted arrival dates for driverless cars – an idea that would surely have been derided a decade or so ago. The other was a report on the growing legions of canine family members who can now earn up to $10,000 for a single social media post.
It was sobering to discover how many dogs have a far more lucrative and secure career than me. Even if you dressed me up in the cutest of outfits (having first overcome formidable resistance), I doubt whether I could perform at the level required to become a media star. I just don’t know any good tricks. Who says man is the most intelligent animal?
Do I claim to shun technology, like the man on the coach (although, presumably, even he approves of the internal combustion engine)? Not me, and I never will. This very blog is evidence enough of that. I embrace the electronic world in which we live. But I do see technology as a double-edged sword, giving with one hand while often taking something away with the other (to mangle a perfectly good metaphor).
I have a passion for technological innovation, especially where it can be applied to the great challenges faced by humanity relating to health, education, security, shelter, waste and poverty. But I have come to realise just how over-reliant I have become on the Internet. I depend on it completely to earn a living, for example, and it would be good to move away somewhat from that unbalanced position.
The Knot Garden supports technological innovation but urges us to find ways of reducing our dependence on it. This belief has its basis in the idea that creativity, resourcefulness, resilience, persistence, integrity and other such desirable human qualities come from within us and do not require the aid of electronic paraphernalia. This should not prevent us, of course, from applying such attributes to the development of technological solutions to problems.
The Knot Garden whole-heartedly approves of technology when it is used as a force for good. But it does not need computers or networks any more than you or I need to watch television. Except of course for maintaining its blog. And even that, as important as it may seem right now, will eventually become redundant.