I was reading an article on www.news.com today written by Bob Hart who is a staff writer for the Herald Sun. The article described his attempts to live without the accoutrement’s of the hi-tech world to which he’d become accustomed.
I’ve never met Bob, nor am I ever likely to, we live in different worlds. I wouldn’t even say I was a contemporary of Bob’s, he has led an entirely different life to me and the only things we have in common are really being almost ‘of an age’ (he being 64 and me being 60) and our shared almost adoring attachment to the digital age.
To save you reading the entire article, unless you really feel the need, Bob asks the question of himself if was still possible for him to live easily without all the digital gear his life currently revolved around, and if he tried… how would he cope. To be honest he coped remarkable well, but then he would. Technology has not yet invaded the everyday life of the vast majority of people to the extent that the ‘old-fashioned’ has become obsolete. What’s more, in my opinion it is unlikely to in the near future. Technology simply hasn’t permeated our everyday *individual* worlds to that extent.
Of course it would be almost impossible now to turn back the clock 50 years to a time before computers controlled everything from food and manufacturing production to transportation logistics… and even warehousing, purchasing, pricing and delivery scheduling… but as individuals we are still relatively independent of the worst inroads of technological advance.
True I’d find it utterly impossible to communicate my thoughts to you in their rampant mediocrity was it not for the computer. Yes in theory at least I could write letters… in practice I suppose I still carry sufficient knowledge to produce my own paper pen and ink. I could even send it ‘snail mail’ by ship across the seas to reach you. And whilst I’m aware the letter would be safely ensconced within a postal system dominated by computer assisted sorting and delivery regimes, my own physical dependence on that technology would be reduced to a minimum. Of course for many of you that I have never, and will never have met… even that minimal communication would be impossible.
Still, I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that it *is* still remarkable easy for an individual to turn their back on the new technology as an individual and revert to an older, gentler way of life. Public telephones still exist, as does the old FM/AM radio. We can still walk, ride bicycles, meet face to face when required and even carry on business by barter if we so wish. It is indeed quite eminently possible…. but oh what a hassle!!
One of the problems I’m finding as I write is to identify the hold this technology has on me and why I can’t just shrug it off and ignore it. Since I’m using my own life as an example, I could ask do I really *need* to be available for contact with the world at any and every given moment of the day? If not… why do I carry a mobile phone with me? Is there no place left in my life for real, actual solitude? That is solitude exemplified not only by the absence of direct interaction with another human being, but the absence of any other means of communication and/or information gathering such as a computer. I make the distinction because I’m more than happy to spend hours physically alone, but ‘online’ with only the ‘world wide web’ of information to provide ‘company’.
So could *I* manage to abandon the technological world with its myriad ways of ensuring none of us is more than a button press away from the other?
Believe it or not I think I could! The idea does create some concern, because it would mean cutting myself off from almost every means I have currently of immediately communicating with friends and family in my country of origin, the UK. However, if it became necessary, it *would* be possible for me to do it… and to cope.
Next question is… would I be willing, as Bob did, to actually *try* it in real time? The answer right now is no. Not because I’m addicted (though of course I would say that even if I was!) but because there simply isn’t the need. If and/or when the need arises, I’ll lay down my phone, walk away from my computer, digital camera, digital watch and the rest and not look back. Actually that isn’t strictly true… I *might* look back, but if I was to look back, I think it would be mainly with relief.
Why? Well perhaps that’s a story for another day. Right now it’s enough for me to know that despite what seems to be my reliance on the current crop of communication machinery, I *am* still ‘human’ and *can* live quite happily in glorious isolation without them. Realistically, there isn’t the slightest chance of my way of life reverting entirely to a ‘hunter gatherer’ or even totally agricultural, society, I’m simply too old and fat now for that to be a practical possibility, but I could back away from the worst inroads of this loss of privacy and independence with little sense of loss.
The technology is there to use if I want to… and, if I want to, I can simply abandon it. Today, like Bob… I am making a choice and, today at least, I choose not to. In the end perhaps that’s the most important point of all. For the majority of people alive today, deciding whether or not to use these tools is a choice we are still able to make. I wonder how far into the future the use of these tools will change from a convenience to a necessity… and how soon after that will it become an imperative?
How long will it be before the ‘choice’ is irrevocably taken from us?