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Technology: Friend or Foe?

For a small —but growing— segment of society, the world really is an interconnected, globalized, and tech-tastic place. Not only did the internet gods deliver gchat to save us from workplace-induced comas, now it has video capabilities, too. Further evidence of the tech take-over: I started using Skype when I was abroad to talk to friends and family in the U.S. on the cheap, but now I’m so hooked that it feels unnatural to use a regular phone (I can’t see what you’re wearing and my hands aren’t free). And have you seen the iPhone?! Don’t pretend to be all blasé about it; that chic do-it-all device blows my mind. I don’t have one (in 2008 alone I lost or broke four cell phones), but I’m truly mesmerized whenever a friend casually busts one out to show me the latest on Failblog or uses it to find the nearest bar.

Recently, I’ve become obsessed with TechCrunch, a blog that reports the latest news on everything, you guessed it, tech: from the newest widgets to the latest Silicon Valley start-ups. Very often, I don’t understand a word they’re saying (PHP-what?). Still, TechCrunch has introduced me to a whole host of really interesting new web wonders, like Virgance, a for-profit company that aims to lead us to the greener pastures of Activism 2.0; Trackle, which allows you to track just about anything trackable; and Google’s new location-aware email signatures for Gmail, which if enabled will sign emails with something like “Sent from: Los Angeles, CA” (this feature was invented by a Google engineer during his paid free time, known was “20-percent-time,” by the way).

When I visited, I got hyper-excited. After spending some time importing all the things I want to track (headlines on CNN, news on work/life issues, cheap tickets to Stockholm, ski conditions at Big Bear) I sat back and waited for my life to become easy, informed, and organized.

I’m still waiting. When I visited the site the next day, my trackle inbox showed 375 new alerts. Granted, all the information was presented in an extremely accessible way and perhaps I went a little overboard in my trackling. Still, I couldn’t help feeling more anxious than ever. There’s just so much information out there, and so little time! (Apparently, teens are up to the challenge— a new study reports that they spend an average of 31 hours per week online).

The eternal question remains: where is all of this technology leading us? Will it make our lives —at work and at home— easier? Or more complicated? Unfortunately, current data points toward the latter. Technology has been advancing rapidly for the last 30 years, yet wages have been stagnant and people are working longer than ever. And that's not even counting the effects of the BlackBerry craze (i.e. answering work emails at 2 a.m.) What’s the deal? Are we being bamboozled?

There’s no way to stop technological advancement and I certainly wouldn’t dream of advocating that— remember my infatuation with the iPhone? On the other hand, we need to consider these issues carefully and make sure that technology is being used to improve our lives, not make our lives even more demanding.

- Yelizavetta Kofman

Originally posted onThe Lattice Group Blog.

technology - "future vision" photo by $idney under creative commons license.  

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