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Consequences Of Technology

Posted by | Posted in Geek Stuff, Society | Posted on 12-11-2008

“I’m sorry, I can’t do that Dave…”

Last night I was thinking about how great modern technology is, and how brilliant it is that all sorts of devices, from mobile phones to laptops to cameras, can all be connected together wirelessly. How much easier does it make things, when you have a bluetooth mobile and bluetooth laptop? It’s certainly easy to transfer files, as well as sync your various laptop apps to your mobile apps. But before we all get caught up with how good it is to be connected to everything all of the time, I’d like to air my veiws about the grim future that I see unfolding before our very eyes.

What will computing, and the IT industry in general, be like in 20 or 30 years time? Right now, we’ve got powerful desktop PCs and laptops that allow us to produce lots of high-end, resource-intesive media, such as film and TV shows, as well as audio podcasts and music. We’ve had PCs that have been able to browse the web and access email for years, and we’ve had access to broadband internet for almost as long. Wireless technology has been built into laptops for portability, and more and more people are integrating the internet into their everyday lives. But as more people require basic (and not so basic) internet services, such as emailing and instant messaging, technology needs to play catchup.

But that’s only half the story. For some of the time, technology needs to keep up with public demand. But for the rest of the time, it’s the public who are keeping up with technology. Tech companies build new-fangled gizmos all the time, and only then do people actually find innovative uses for them. Of course, the companies must know that these uses will be found, or else they wouldn’t pour millions of dollars into R&D. But ultimately, it’s the end users of these devices and technologies who find the best uses for them. So tech companies are contunually trying to build bigger, better and more advanced devices to help people living in the digital age to do more with less.

But where will it end? I mentioned previously that it’s great to be able to update your Facebook status from your mobile for example, or call someone on their mobile using VoIP services from your laptop, but this sort of connectivity is going to take it’s toll. In 20 or 30 years, we will be living in an age where there will be complete and absolute wireless broadband coverage, and all mobile devices will be connected to the net in the same way that laptops and mobiles are now. We’re starting to see it already – many higher-end mobiles and PDAs have wi-fi and bluetooth built in.

As many web developers know, a lot of the more popular social networks and business networking websites have complete APIs that allow you to build applications that interface with them. Many software companies build mash-ups between one web service and another, effectively making use of two or more separate web applications and combining them into one.

At this rate, all major websites, social networks, and online productivity suites will be integrated together, and all of them will offer the same services as each other. You’ll soon be able to update your Twitter account from Facebook, and add a news feed story on Facebook by uploading a new music video on MySpace. There will be complete saturation when it comes to which websites can be mashed together with other websites, and with complete wireless broadband coverage, everyone will be able to do everything, from anywhere, at any time.

There’ll be no such things as “normal office hours” any more; indeed, there’ll be no real need for offices at all in the traditional sense. Offices will be nothing more than storage spaces for paperwork, with the occasional video conference taking place. People won’t have a set number of working hours stipulated in their employment contracts, and they won’t be required to “come in to work” every day. Again, we see evidence of this at the moment, with some people having the ability to work from home. Instead, an IT worker’s office hours will be “daylight hours” in whatever timezone their current clients happen to be living in. They’ll be connected to all the appropriate technologies that they need, 24/7, from wherever they are.

All of this sounds great, but when you think about how this will start to affect people, it doesn’t sound so appetizing. Imagine being one of those IT staff for a minute – you’ve got a company mobile and laptop that you keep with you at all times, and you can access your intranet and the internet at any time, from anywhere. What happens when you go home for the day? You’ve still got your laptop with you, so work collegues on another continent can still get in touch with you at midnight should they deem it necessary. You could never go on holiday without the possibility of being interupted by work collegues, and as you spend one week to the next in a different part of the world anyway, what difference does it make to you that you’re on the coast of Spain this week? The “holiday” is, in fact, no different from any other week in your life.

Soon, people will start to be diagnosed with new medical conditions. Sleep deprivation, stress, depression, and even some more serious unknown mental illnesses could occur, all because of the “always connected” lifestyle that they will lead. People will be unable to distinguish between work and play, as you’ll be able to do both at any time. In your mind’s eye, there’ll be no difference between working at home and playing at home, as you could do either one whenever the situation requires it. IT professionals won’t be able to relax and de-stress (in a medical sense) and it will start to affect people mentally and phsically.

I don’t know about you, but I quite enjoy getting home from work and changing out of my work clothes into my normal clothes. It makes me feel like the day is done, and that I’ve got nothing more to worry about until tomorrow. But what if it made no difference what clothes I was wearing? What if I was wearing a metaphorical shirt and tie all the time? I know I’d be pretty stressed out, that’s for sure. There’d be no such thing as “getting away from it all”, as all of “it” would just follow me around like a bad smell.

That’s no way to live. It’d be great to have access to information and services on demand, but what about when you dont want access to information and services? There’s a time and a place for work, and a time and a place for play. I personally don’t want to have to mix the two together, but with things evolving how they are at the moment, that’s how it’ll end up. And it won’t be a pretty sight.

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