Monday, July 16, 2012

Has technology exceeded our humanity? (A great ape muses on our path to digital blindness).

Updated: 17 Feb. 2018 (Mostly fixed links)

Many have written about technology and how it affects and may negatively affect humans and our evolutionary path as great apes.

Many techies see anti-tech as a boring story told by modern day Luddites.

Others see information technology and the Internet, including its creepy aspects, as just the unfamiliar that we will get used to:
  • You know, things like breaches of personal privacy by Google or Facebook and selling us to advertisers. We need to be 'cool with that' or risk being considered Luddites.
This blog documents some of my observations from everyday life based on daily walks around lovely Corbett Hall at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Corbett Hall is only a block away from where my husband and I live in an apartment complex whose tenants are mainly university students and health professionals working at UAH, mostly the former.

Typical Day
Went down in the elevator with 2 young people. Both were texting on their cell phones. No eye contact with anything but the tiny screens.

On Whyte Avenue a young man who was texting would have walked into me if I hadn't shouted "Hey!" This happens more and more often. He wasn't plugged into an ipod so could hear me.

At corner of Whyte and 112 Street, when the red light changed to green, I was nearly run over by a car turning right whose driver, a young woman, was on her cell phone, even though it's illegal here.

Lovely summer day. In the trees along Whyte Avenue and around Corbett Hall birds cheeped. Peregrine falcons nesting on the nearby Clinical Sciences Bldg, where I worked for 22 yrs+, soared and screeched.

A group of ~12 very short people from the nearby daycare centre marched arm in arm in a long line down the lawn and eventually began to frolic about while being supervised by daycare staff. Much giggling and gurgling by joyous toddlers.

A lone jack rabbit suddenly hopped across the lawn and through the parking lot to the adjoining large sports field.

Walked across the sports field to University Avenue and was accompanied by a whirring squadron of dragon flies, the flying aces of insect world.

Rounded a corner of Corbett Hall where the smell of lilacs still lingers.

Several students sat at the tables in front of Corbett. Many were texting.

Passed several students who had ipods (or similar) connected with earbuds.

Someone passed me and said hi, but when I turned to return the hello I saw he was on his cell phone using a microphone headset with microphone.

Was temporarily startled by a young man who whizzed by on his skateboard.

Dropped into Sobeys for a coffee. At next table sat 3 young people. One talked on her cell phone, one texted, and the other looked a bit forlorn. The phone conversation was the American 'valley girl speak' typical of most young Canadians for years now.
"I was like, 'She's such a crappy prof.' And he goes, 'That is so true. What a c_nt!' Many more I was like and he goes with numerous gratuitous expletives thrown in.
As someone who 'grew up' in the 60s, I've said many vulgarities at one time or another but not in a neighbourhood cafe in a loud, giggly voice, including when I was an immature 18.

At end of walk, returning home along Whyte, I passed a frail white-haired woman using a walker who met my greeting of "It's sure a lovely day" with a smile and replied, '"Wonderful, just wonderful."

Stopped as usual to smell the wild roses and other flowers planted along the avenue.

Went up in the elevator with 3 young tenants, all of whom were texting.

I have a cell phone, desktop computer, laptop, digital recorder, digital camera, ipod, ipad and was an early adopter of Internet technologies.

For 12 years I've made a living mainly as a self-taught webmaster, turning knowledge of transfusion science, education and the Internet into a post-teaching career. None of it would be possible without the generosity of colleagues.

As well, as a way to share interesting resources and news, or to vent about perceived injustices, but mostly I blog just for fun.
and Tweet:
After nearly 20 years of using  computers at work, I'm all but positive (who can be 100% sure of anything?) that nothing particularly important happens when sitting in front of a computer.

Certainly nothing we'll remember on our deathbeds. Instead of Citizen Kane's 'rosebud' few of us will call out 'iphone' or i-anything.

To me it's a no-brainer to appreciate what's real and take care to enjoy the natural world. All too soon we will lose the 5 senses our human bodies enjoy and enter the never-ending void called death.

I'm 'cool with that.' Someone, probably a Buddhist (forget who) once said the equivalent of, "I never worried about the millions of years I didn't exist before birth, so why be concerned about the eternity I won't exist after death?"

Hence, to live in the present we must be aware of our senses.  The ideas in Jon Kabat-Zinn's book Coming to Our Senses seem reasonable to me.

Nature is precious. It's everything worthwhile on our tiny 'pale blue dot,' as Carl Sagan put it. Einstein's famous line (about quite a different technology) seems appropriate:
  • It is appallingly obvious our technology has exceeded our humanity. 
As to evolution of our branch of hominids, I'd guess that many of us are becoming blind, totally unaware of our surroundings. Maybe aware of digital sounds and images but not to real 'in-the-flesh' sights and sounds of natural life.

Over time, my guess is that we'll develop enormous thumbs, much like the troglodytic Morlocks of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine developed huge eyes. And we'll only be able to communicate digitally.

Who knows, maybe our thumbs will give us so much pleasure that they'll evolve into our sex organs. Can already hear the thumb envy, 'Mine's bigger than yours.' (Fill in your own salacious variations.) 

A George Harrison classic that expresses my feelings about youngsters I see daily who let life pass them by:
As always, comments are most welcome. 


  1. Anonymous7:10 PM

    Supposing anyone wants to know in greater detail about 'our' falcons, you can check out the blog at Hope the youngster Feist has shown up by now: I thought I heard him this afternoon but didn't get my eye on him.

    Re the topic: the e-mail technology that brought me word of my aunt's hospitalization plus that of other elderly (i.e. older than me) relatives could never fill in for our recent trip to southern Alberta that allowed us to actually see some of the folk in person.

    Thanks for these thoughtful musings, and for all the technological know-how you have so generously shared.

  2. Dear 'rat', thanks for the link to the blog.

    Pretty cute naming a feisty fledgling falcon, Feist after the Canadian singer.

    I love technology, but its experiences are pathetic compared to the real world around us.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.