Can technology replace human contact?
Technology + The Net + Me = Love Affair. I’m a nerd at heart, and I have so much I.T. kit sitting in my house you could launch a space shuttle and land a man on Mars. I was using the net before it was made public in 1992; academic privileges. In my lifetime I’ve seen more change that I ever expected could happen. I’ve seen computers go from filling 25 story office blocks to fitting on your wrist. I’ve seen data processing rates grow at rates that still leave me in awe, and I’ve seen social change and impacts that are still rolling forward and no one is sure where they will lead. It’s no joke: we are living in a time of technological and social changes the like of which has never been see in the whole history of mankind. But then again, with change comes a warning that rattles down through history. Those who who fail to learn the lessons are doomed to repeat them. I can see see the failed lessons and people being doomed.
Me and technology are bed fellows. I’m disabled—a good old fashioned cripple. I jokingly call my main home system “ABLE2”. I do love a pun, but the truth is the technology I use does make me able to do things. The technology starts when I wake up with some nice loud and heavily persistent alarms courtesy of a Galaxy Tab. No iProducts, please, and give me the freedom of open source. “Redmond” is a swear word to me. I like strong beats and strong ideas, so I use this as my first alarm each morning:
Another system cooks my coffee just the way I like it, and in the past I had a web cam watching my coffee pot. As the day progresses other systems kick in. They allow me to get on with life, and as the day draws to a close, I even have a most beautiful media system that gives me access to whatever will distract me as I fall asleep. A web cam watches, and after I haven’t moved for a certain period it just fades down the sound and the light and bids me good night.
But technology is also seductive and dangerous. It allows you to do things that you were not able to do before. People start to figure out how to mess with the equation of your life, and remove themselves from it.
Imagine being told that you could only exist in your apartment, house, or trailer. You could not go through the door. You could never leave. All your world was to be delivered. You could use the net to reach out, but you could never go through that door—that door that goes out into the real world. That door was closed.
People would think for a short period, maybe call it prison and then just carry on, Twitter away, blog and Facebook—but they just ignored their grandmother.
What? Don’t believe me?
Some are horrified that the prison population is so high in the US—what is the figure, 1.6 million or 2 million? There are more people held in cells today than at any time in history. Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet, because some are attempting to force the use of technology so that we will have over 50 million new prisoners, at a profit, and most of you cheering them on in the name of progress.
There is an ongoing shift and idea that technology can replace people. It’s been tried with people I know. My reaction was simple and straight forward: up yours.
The first time I saw it happen was a friend with cerebral palsy. She had fought hard for many years to have her own home, live independently, and be herself. It’s a pain doing all that with wheelchairs, equipment, an adapted vehicle, and caregivers who physically lift you, but, his lady was an expert. She manager all her own staff, money, and contracts of employment. Why not? It was only her muscles that were wired wrong, not her brain.
Then one day she received a visit. She was advised that her needs were being re-accessed. She didn’t need to go and visit a shop to buy food: she could order it over the net, in fact she could shop for everything over the net—she did not need to leave her home.
Then she was told that she didn’t need to have people present in case she fell or needed assistance with daily living activities, such as going to the toilet. It was being decided what she needed were nappies and some sensors, called telepresence, which would allow a computer to check if she as moving or not and if necessary, call for help.
If that wasn’t bad enough, she was told that it would be better for her to stay in bed longer each day as she could be given a laptop which she could use from bed. The care and assistance she got each day to get in and out of bed, have food and even bath and toilet was being cut, because technology would replace humans.
Now I’m not famous for being tactful, but when she contacted me by webcam and asked me to sit in on the meeting, It didn’t take long for me to go BALLISTIC. The state employees on the other end of Skype had to deal with major burns an I was launched into orbit … and that was just the start. That was the first case I came across. Now it’s a tsunami.
Disabled people and in particular the elderly are being cut off from the real world because it’s cheaper to use machines than people. Worse still, it’s not that someone has invented a robot care giver—any technology that can be used to cut costs is being used. It’s cut costs and ignore people at any price.
So imagine it’s you mother, father, grandmother or granddad who is the one being told that because it costs $x to have someone take them to a shop and for the same price they can shop online 10,000 times, they must stay home and not go out! No you don’t need to visit friends or family—you can use Skype and a web cam—and if your friend of 70 years is not online, well, too bad.
I love technology—but I’m also no fool! I may be woken gently by it each morning and lulled to sleep each night, but it is there to empower me and not imprison.
If you are not aware of just how crippling and imprisoning the technology can be, you run the risk of a life sentence of ignorance and bliss, followed by a second life sentence, spending your “golden years” alone on the net.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons