Monday, April 21, 2014

Technology shaping human behavior

As a kid I used to watch Star Trek and marvel about Mr. Spock and the technology some of which is reality now. I also devoured (Isaac) Asimov, Arthur C Clarke and other science fiction fantasizing about the future possibilities that will change the way we live. When the internet made its presence felt and mobile technology started gaining traction, the realms of reality stretched imagination. Moving from the humble personal computer to the smartphone, the new world is impacting us in many ways directly and indirectly.

The last few years have seen a lot of technology wanting to attach to human body; fortunately it is still outside the body and not getting inside as yet. Fitness bands gave way to smart watches which doubled up to also show you the time while telling you about who is calling or the latest trends on social media of choice. Glasses anyone ? And there was a queue of people wanting to cover their eyes ! Directions from your favorite map service on your windscreen ? Why not also notify you about what your “friends” are excited about or what is trending ?

Is that a distraction to driving ? Let’s make cars that can drive themselves while you immerse yourself in the pervasive world of noise from all over. Traveling somewhere ? Write reviews and tell your friends, too bad some burglars also took notice that you are away from home. Stay connected wherever you are on WIFI, 3G, 4G, LTE, on your tablet, phablet, phone or at least the watch ? Your health parameters are being monitored and stored by some app. You can use it later to determine your health; so can someone else who you don’t know !

Will you scan before you eat ? Supermarkets would like to help you create your personalized basket of products which they can remind you to buy. All the packaged food companies would also like to know the products you consume so they know more about your eating habits. Next time you renew your health insurance, don’t be surprised by a markup or discount; the health insurance company also has vested interest in this data ! The situation is becoming Orwellian with Big Brother watching every move you make using Big Data.

The question that bothers me is why are we willingly obliging everyone ? What makes us want to obsessively stay connected and share the important to obscure to inane details of our lives ? Why are we allowing personal data to be used in a way that influences our actions and our behaviors ? This was not anyone’s favorite part in any futuristic idea or science fiction ? Digital addiction especially for the new Digital Native generation is rewiring responses; the thinking process is changing, our dependence on technology complete.

People have reported withdrawal symptoms when they are unconnected; the thumb is getting used beyond its evolved state leading to new diseases. Accidents are increasing with distracted mind unable to focus on walking or driving. Eyesight is adversely impacted while our hearing ability is impaired due to constant high volume sound from earphones. Over and above all of this, the expectation to respond to any stimulus (email, message, alert) instantly is putting psychological pressure on the connected generation.

Enterprises want productivity with the connectivity; corporate apps hijacking the personal phone, information driven process velocity is the new normal stretching the already challenged balance between work and life. The lines are blurring and both have intertwined into our awake hours in a way that does not leave any personal space or time. The resultant pressure and stress is increasing rate of heart ailments and lifestyle diseases in 20 something youth that were associated with 60+ in the past.

Some companies and governments have begun to take cognizance of this and are enforcing work hours in an attempt to wean off the addiction. How can parents do the same with the upcoming generation which is born to technology ? I believe that they will have to lead by example for the young ones and also at work for their teams. Wearable technology is here and urging you to participate; I know what you did last summer is now more like I know what you just did and what you are likely to do !

Digital free day anyone ?

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