Technology Kills

22 07 2009

Ok. If there is one thing that I get quite annoyed about it’s people who incessantly check their iphones or blackberries at the meal table, especially if we’re out at a restaurant. Technology is an area of our lives that develops so quickly that our manners which have well developed over long periods of time is always playing catch-up, and losing. Maybe we have to learn our manners all over again with our always developing cell phones, computers, etc. But my annoyance with other people’s poor manners is dismissable. You can just tell me to deal with it, and I will, though I’ll still have a poor image of you as a social being. But when it comes to technology and driving, it is beyond annoyances, it’s lethal stupidity.

Maureen Dowd comments in her NYTimes column “Whirling Dervish Drivers” about how there is little difference in terms of attantion levels between hands-free use of cell phones versus not. Both are very dangerous, and yet we still continue to engage in such suicidal activity. Why? Dowd offers an explanation: Addiction.

As John Ratey, the Harvard professor of psychiatry who specializes in the science of attention, told The Times’s Matt Richtel for his chilling series, “Driven to Distraction,” using digital devices gives you “a dopamine squirt.”

That explains the Pavlovian impulse of people who are out with friends or dates to ignore them and check their BlackBerrys and cellphones, even if 99 out of 100 messages are uninteresting. They’re truffle-hunting for that scintillating one.

Americans woke up one day to find that they were don’t-miss-a-moment addicts who feel compelled to respond to all messages immediately.

The tech industry is our drug dealer, feeding the intense social and economic pressure to stay constantly in touch with employers, colleagues, friends and family.

So will we learn only when it is too late after we have hurt another’s loved one through our irresponsibility? My cynical side answers “yes”. After all it is a matter of looking out for another person’s interest rather than the interest of our own pleasure and thrill of tech usage, and quite honestly, we humans suck at that. But this is one of those things I’d like to be proven wrong, so let’s hope. Let’s hope that we can look outside ourselves and our cell phones, toward other people’s safety and well-being.


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