Jb's Blog

views on current events

Technology – Blessings & Curses

with 2 comments

Technology. At the same time, a blessing and a curse. We all benefit from the rampant advances in technology, but I think we also suffer from some of the downside elements it necessarily brings along with the obvious innovations.

In the professional realm, I used to be a Recording Engineer, hired by people who wanted to make a record. My clients realized that to make a professional recording they needed to rent a studio which had invested heavily in the expensive equipment required to make an album. And they needed someone with experience in operating that equipment (namely, me) to capture their performances and pull them all together in a completed project. And all of that required some hefty funding on the client’s part. But technological advancements finally made it possible for anyone to purchase relatively inexpensive software which modeled the costly studio equipment, and for a couple of hundred dollars, they could essentially have several hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of ‘recording gear’ right in their own PC.

A great technological advancement. One which I applaud and also endorse, because it put the necessary tools which were once cost-prohibitive within the reach of anyone who wanted to use it to creatively express themselves. A great boon to the creative juices in all of us. However, even though I embraced this new access that technology brought to Everyman, it was instrumental (along with a variety of other coinciding events) in bringing about an end to the perceived need for clients to hire an experienced professional. Since they could afford to own the equipment, they could make their own recordings. And they did. And forever more, will.

So while I embrace and benefit from the availability of those advances in recording technology, the same advances have contributed heavily to bringing about the end of my career. Consequently, at the point in my life where I should be contemplating retirement, instead I’ve had to start over with an entry level job in retail because my years of experience have been rendered passé. Of no use to anyone. That is something that I personally see as a big ‘downside.’

The same holds true in just about every field. I recently read that advances in agricultural technology over the years have made it possible for only 3 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2008 to provide the agricultural output that required 41 percent of our workforce in 1900. In the manufacturing sector, U.S. manufacturing employment peaked at 19.5 million workers in 1979. Since 1979, the manufacturing workforce has shrunk by 40 percent and will likely continue to decline. However, the average value of output per worker is three times as high as it was in 1980, and twice as high as it was in 1990. All this is largely due to advances in technology. These advances have brought definite benefits that we all share, yet to those who have seen their jobs disappear, there are also obvious disadvantages.

Another area where I am observing this same blessing/curse dichotomy is in the sphere of personal relationships. Modern communication technology has undoubtedly made tremendous strides in helping people get in touch and stay in touch. Internet technology. Email. Social networking. Facebook. Twitter. The blogging world. All these relatively new technologies do wonders in helping us remain connected. However, I’m seeing some real downsides in the ease of communication these things have introduced to our lives. Personally, I love the ability I now have to subscribe to the newsfeed of a friend’s blog in order to stay up to date on whatever that friend decides to share with the world. And while in one sense this ability helps me stay up on the events in that friend’s life, I’ve realized that it also puts an element of distance between us, because there is no real and personal interaction in the exchange of information from that friend to me.

Case in point: I recently ran into an old friend. This was a friend whom I used to be in fairly close contact with, and in ‘the old days’ any time we saw each other there would almost invariably be an arm thrown around the shoulder in a ‘buddy-hug’ brought about by the closeness we felt for each other. I don’t see this friend often now, but I subscribe to his blog, and read his frequent status updates and comments on Facebook, all of which give me a (false?) sense that I’m still connected with what’s going on in his life. When I ran into him last week, I spotted him across a crowded room, and as I was making my way over to him, I was headed toward what I instinctively thought would be one of those old ‘buddy-hugs’ because of the personal connection I still feel. But when I got to him, instead of walking into that hug, I was met with a stiff arm extended for a handshake. And even though my emotional momentum kept moving me toward that hug, the handshake was as close as I got to it. To be honest, that felt like running smack-dab head-on into a unseen wall. It felt like a stinging slap in the face. But as I contemplated why this bothered me as badly as it did, I realized that while I felt connected to him as a result of keeping up with his status updates and his blog, there has been no personal interaction in that exchange of information. Even though he’s been sharing openly, he has received no interaction from me which would have given him any sense of continued connectivity with me. No dis intended toward my friend: his reaction was natural: it should be no surprise that he must have seen me simply as an old friend he USED to have a personal connection with. He’s been sharing alright, but with everyone in the world, and not with me. And I haven’t been sharing with him, either.

And so, while I greatly appreciate the ability to read status updates and thoughts and experiences shared through the miracle of blogging, and while I’m happy that I can continue to benefit from them, I’ve decided that I despise the distance those things have introduced into my personal relationships with people. I miss the interactions. I miss the face-time and the closeness that real interpersonal interactions used to bring. I really really do. Human contact… it’s much underrated these days, me thinks.

When you do the projections on this personal experience of mine, and look at what it means when applied to the millions of people in this modern world, what does it mean for our society at large? I’m not encouraged by the answer to that question.

Damn technology. What a blessing. What a curse.

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Written by jb

February 8, 2010 at 1:42 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Good post jb. yes, we are creating walls with all this technology. It’s sad because we seem to be using these tools to NOT have to have face time but make ourselves feel good that we are “connected” with so many friends.

    mark

    February 9, 2010 at 8:15 am

  2. Exactly! There is a big danger in that we don’t see it coming.. the realization of ‘the distance’ sneaks up on us from out of nowhere, after the real connections have been lost for a long time.

    jb

    February 9, 2010 at 12:53 pm


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