As a programming newbie, I am enamored by the development of software from its first line of code to the packaging of the final product. It is apparent that in the past 20 to 30 years, technology has transformed our world and forced us into what is now known as the digital age. In many ways, technology has introduced convenient alternatives such as using iOS and Android applications to order food rather than make a phone call or using an app to schedule a taxi pick-up for what is now known as an Uber service. These conveniences often referred to as disruptive technology, have shaped and truly changed our culture for the better. However, is technology entirely good? Or better yet, is it always healthy for us? As a millennial, I often struggle with this question because although I grew up with the tech evolution, using computers and dissembling them at a young age, I am equally excited and worried about it. Here’s why:
The number of deaths that are a result of the use of technology rise every year. They range from “texting while driving” accidents to suicide by the hands of depressed and lonely social media users who suffered from the lack of communication that is masqueraded by the connection myth that social media provides. Some have even died from looking down at their phones while crossing the street. Thus, technology can also be a distraction if it is not kept under control. Many are so addicted to social media that they are constantly checking their accounts while at work, class and even while using the restroom. Many even sleep with their phones by their heads at night and check their accounts throughout the night. I am definitely guilty of this. Frighteningly, the iPhone has become a device we cannot live without, especially for millennials and it portrays an ugly portrait of what our future can become. Some of us are more attached to our phones than we are to actual people and struggle with intimacy in our relationships. Many of us haven’t read a physical book in years.
Nonetheless, technology also has positive attributes. Having access to a mobile device can also keep people alive. During an emergency, a mobile device allows someone the convenience of dialing 911 or tweeting the details of the emergency. It also allows a person to take photos, record a voice or video of someone being treated unfairly. Records which serve as evidence for purposes of justice. There are definitely good benefits to having unlimited communication and convenient access to emergency services.
The older I get the more my eyes have opened to the decline in communication. Many of us refuse to speak to a customer service rep or a restaurant operator when ordering food. Calling a taxi service or hotel concierge when you have AirBnB has even become archaic. There’s the existence of that small notion that “there’s an app for that!” In many cases, our communication skills have atrophied. Which probably explains why I often feel a sense of queasiness whenever I have to make a call that involves speaking to an operator or customer service rep. Eventually, that initial feeling passes and I am able to make the call but I am constantly wrestling with the possibility that maybe my reluctance to communicate has developed from the access to technology I have been freely taking advantage of. I can admittedly say that I seldom resort to a phone conversation either, only to a select amount of individuals. My texting skills are probably even worse. Although I’d prefer texting I’m not always adept at replying to my friend’s messages and they’d probably all agree that I am guilty of that.
I’ve also noticed this sense of permitted forgetfulness where it’s just assumed that a person didn’t reply because they’re busy or is struggling with focus on many things at once. For example, the NYC housing search. Should I explain? The minutes you post an available room you’re getting hundreds of views and messages from people asking if the rental is available. However, even if you’ve messaged them back immediately, that person will either ignore your message or exclaim their disinterest. Most times, they just ignore it. The internet has given us too many options and the synapses in our brains are firing off constantly at rapid speed every day. It’s easy to forget or ignore a response to a question you just asked.
I work in the finance industry but on the tech side. My company is not tech focused so we aren’t equipped with all of the most updated software or skills. On my team, in particular, I oddly feel like I’m still looking at legacy code from the 80’s! We are still trying to figure things out, to have a more agile approach to building programs or bug fixing and eliminating all of the manual work that is still done on a daily basis. Today, I thought about how interesting it is that many companies, even large corporate firms like mine aren’t 100% automating their tasks. If anything, not even 50%. I often wonder what it would be like if all manual tasks were automated and there weren’t enough skill to engineer and maintain the machines carrying out the automation? This would produce a conundrum of issues in the future.
I was once on an interview in which the interviewer described the engineering role to me and then said: “the goal is for you to one day automate yourself out of the position and hopefully be promoted to a different role.” It made me think of my past obsession with IoT or the Internet of Things. I’d really love to contribute to the next big thing like the Amazon Alexa or Uber, however, will this be detrimental to my children or my children’s children who may not have an interest in software engineering?
So I invite you to think about all of these things. Is technology an attribute or a detriment to you? Or are you not inclined to one side of the spectrum? What do you think life would be like if everything was automated?