Technology is scary but necessary

Whether or not you have a firm opinion on the topic, technology is indisputably taking over our world. Unless youíre Amish itís everywhere we go. If youíre taking a hike donít you at least bring along your cell phone, if not a GPS and an iPod as well? Whether or not you think so, you too are probably contributing to this in some way or another. And yet, so many people still fight ferociously against the inevitable, saying that we need to return to simpler ways.

As human beings ó especially Americanized human beings ó we want everything to be faster, easier, better. So whether we agree with it or not we do crave technology. How else could we make macaroni and cheese in less than four minutes?

And with the advances come risks. Cell phones may cause cancer. Excessive videogaming provokes seizures (not to mention starving from forgetting to eat). People break bones while playing Wii. The government can track you through cell phone or internet usage.

Books and movies with the pervasive theme of ìDonít get too attached to technology” abound. One of the book of the Pendragon series shows the main character trying out virtual reality and being tempted to stay in that reality forever. In ìFeed,” each person is outfitted with microchips embedded in their skull through which they can communicate, watch personalized TV, get ëadviceí from their conscience, and so on. The novel concludes with everyone finding out that the microchips are gradually killing them, and that soon the whole race will be obliterated. And then thereís ìWall-E,” a surprisingly insightful Disney movie where humans have destroyed their planet through greed and become obese blobs that are entirely dependent on the robots who are the true rulers of the race.

And if youíre not guilty of this yourself, Iím sure you at least know of someone who texts friends who are just down the hall, or even in the same room. I personally have used my carís GPS to go somewhere I know perfectly well how to get to without directions. And several times Iíve gotten in trouble because instead of printing out directions online as a backup, I rely solely on my GPS ó and it decides to die for no apparent reason.

We spend hours on Facebook and YouTube and blogs, learning more about other people and their lives than our own. And everyone talks about how gesturing is such a huge factor in communication. Weíve all been the victim of thinking someone was angry at us (or making someone else angry) just because of a poorly-worded text.

So I guess what it comes down to is this ñ is the convenience of technology worth the loss of real, physical human interaction? Psychology tells us we need regular physical contact to stay healthy. I believe the idea is that three hugs a day is ideal for greatest happiness and mental health.

One of the most commonly cited psychological experiments involves Rhesus baby monkeys who were taken away from their mothers and given the option of either clinging to a soft terrycloth monkey that provided no food, or a monkey constructed of wire that gave milk. Each monkey chose to cling to the milk-less cloth mother, going back to the wire mother only when they were starving and needed to feed. Clearly, they wanted love more than one of the most basic needs of existence; food. At what point will we decide we are spending too much time on the computer (which is a much less basic need than food) and revert back to physical contact instead? We share over 99 percent of our genes with primates who clearly have their priorities in order, so will we ever get our priorities back in order as well?

Iím going to leave you with this thought. Yes we can virtually chat with people online, or on the phone, or by Skyping, but think about that word ìvirtual.” The funny thing is that itís synonymous with the words ìalmost,” ìpractically” and ìclose to.” Is that enough?