As the world welcomes 2022, technology continues to pace society at a breakneck speed. In the past two decades, all these advancements—be it The Cloud, social media, smart phones or 5G—have taken us places that were previously the domain of sci-fi novels and technological think tanks. Like anything else, these breakthroughs have proved to be a double-edged sword.
While we’ve been blessed (?) with seemingly unmitigated conveniences, like using apps that allow us to draw up navigation to destinations (Waze), get booze delivered to our doorstep (Drizly) or have free voice and text Internet communication that bypasses phone lines (WhatsApp), what price have we paid? Individual privacy has gone out the window as Facebook and Google have rapaciously gathered and resold our data while we blithely click yes on electronic waivers packed to the gills with legalese finely wrapped in minuscule fine print just so we can download an app or read a viral article.
And while we’re electronically shackled to omnipresent devices, social connectivity is being tossed aside like yesterday’s 8-track tapes (look it up kids if you’re not sure what I’m referencing). Don’t believe me? Next time you’re on mass transit or in a restaurant, look around and see how many people are nose-deep in their phones versus being in the now and holding a conversation with the person they are with. Or if they’re alone, substituting the ability to Tweet, take a selfie or play Candy Crush with the joys of reading a book, newspaper or magazine. Or God forbid–staring off into space to daydream or self reflect.
And all of this is taking place as we are being encouraged to ready ourselves to live in the metaverse, which in layman’s terms, is a persistent online environment facilitated by the use of virtual and augmented reality headsets. In other words, let’s check out of the real world and live in an imaginary one. And along with all of this comes new and exciting developments like bitcoin (let me exchange legal tender for a decentralized digital currency, therefore making me even more reliant on technology. Never mind the fact that this drive towards a cashless society winds up disproportionately disenfranchising lower income folks). Or my favorite–NFTs, which stand for non-fungible tokens. NFTs are a unique and non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain, which is a form of digital ledger. It’s generally associated with reproducible digital files like photos, video, audio and artwork and the value comes with it providing a public certificate of authenticity. It all lives online and for myself, far less satisfying as art versus an actual painting, statue or any other traditional medium that I can take in within the comfort of a museum, art gallery or someone’s home.
I’m sure there are those more tech-savvy readers who are rolling their eyes (in both real-time and emojis) and dismissing my qualms over the idea of all this technology only serving to drive people apart versus bring them together. But I’d rather live and experience the real world, versus having to do it through a device.