Technology Addicts

There is a new breed of addict on the street, the breed that can only exist in a world full of technological marvels. These are the people who never make eye contact with you; they stare at their phone. These are the people who wait in line to buy the next Apple product at midnight, right as they’re stocking the shelves. And these are the people who insist on turning every activity into a selfie.

We all know people like this. They coexist with us in the strange world. In fact, you might even be in a room with one now, whether or not you know it. There is even a small chance, you might be one too.

But that is okay! In the world we live in, we all rely on technology for certain events in our lives. We’ve all been guilty of binge watching shows on Netflix, immersing ourselves in a video game marathon, and losing ourselves in the vast nothingness that is YouTube. These types of behaviors have become socially acceptable (for the most part) because we’ve all been caught doing it. Yet, does that truly make it right to do?

Even though we are all guilty of giving into our technological desires, there is still a stigma around these activities. Technology has begun to take on a very complex mantel. On the one hand, we love it. It helps us with daily activities and provides us with a form of relaxation. Yet, in stark contrast to this, we all fear technology. We’ve all seen those generic sci-fi films with the robots who take over the world and end humanity. So truly, between technology and people exists a love-hate relationship.

So how do we deal with this? We can’t exactly go completely towards or away from technology; we need it (this is somewhat debatable). Well, once again I don’t have a perfect answer. However, if you’ve read this blog, it’s a start. At the very least, by acknowledging this complex situation we can better acclimate to the world we live in.

Mobile Phones And Abercrombie
Documenting life in 2010.

*This unmodified picture is from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/4888370567

Why do we Work?

People like money. Did you know that? In fact, I’d go as far to say that some people love money. I would not be surprised in the least to find out that somebody, somewhere, worships money; and this is very telling about the state of humanity.

When I first started thinking about college the first question was, what major? Almost immediately, there was a tornado of people telling me what to do with my life. Unsurprisingly, there was a resounding agreement on a few things I shouldn’t do as well. Namely, “don’t major in philosophy” and “Whatever you do, just don’t pick art history”. Disclaimer: no, I don’t say this to bash those majors, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Without even realizing it, I instinctively made the connection that because there were few job opportunities in those fields that I would not be happy. Yet, there is one key element missing here. It’s not the major that makes you unhappy, it’s the lack of work which begets a lack of money; and there’s the kicker. People seem to directly correlate wealth with happiness and, quite often, the line isn’t as clear as we think.

My professor loves to point out his situation. Archaeology has one of the lowest return rates of any college major, yet the people in the field have ludicrously high job satisfaction. How can this be? How can someone be happy and not spend their days swimming around in piles of their own wealth? The answer is simple. They love their jobs more than the love money *gasp-wheeze-girly scream*.

In America we love to compete. In fact, our entire economy is based on competition. Whether we are playing video games, attending college, or working in an office, we can’t help but feel the pressure of other people trying to outdo us; and they are right to try. In our society, you “get ahead” by putting someone else behind you. Welcome to capitalism.

At this point, it may seem to you that I hate our economic system, yet that is not true. I love the idea that one day I could rise to the top and be a part of that small little oligarchy of wealth. This possibility is what allows me to ignore the fact that this system inherently is designed to have people at the bottom. Sure, morally I feel a little guilty, but that’s just the way things have to be… or is it?

3422554_f9c8b10398_oCapitalism is America’s game. We love it. We adore it. We walk around in t-shirts with the word literally splattered across our chests. So no, changing the system really isn’t a fantastic idea. Yet, there are two important statements I would like to make. One, if we continue this system as it is, people need to understand that it is a choice. We don’t have to live the way we do, but we, as a majority, choose to. This may seem like an unfair statement to some, but if we really wanted to, we could change it. I believe this firmly.

Secondly, if capitalism is a game, we can choose not to play it. *more gasping and screaming* Wait… what did you say? Yeah, you heard me. No one said you can’t take the rule sheet out of the Monopoly box and scribble your own rules in. That being said, we still need to make money to survive, this is undeniable. Yet, we have the option to choose what we define as success. You don’t have to pick the job that pays more if it makes you miserable. Money makes life easier, not necessarily better, and that is a very significant distinction.

*The unmodified picture is from: https://www.flickr.com /photos/jakecaptive/3422554

The Cost of Efficiency

Time for a little story,

Once upon a time, my sister and I were given some money to spend on some food. So of course, the question became, “Where do we go?” As soon as I heard there was a Red Robin in the area, I knew my destiny. So we drove twenty minutes off campus and parked in the signature Red Robin parking lot. When we got inside, a waitress took us to our seats, prompted us to order our drinks and then pointed to a  little contraption sitting on the table. This little black tablet was designed to take our orders without waiter assistance. We could order our food at the literal press of a button (Yes, I’m counting touch-screens as buttons for the sake of that phrase). Of course, we didn’t really like that, so we tried to call her back whenever we could. Finally, after finishing our meals we decided to get desert and we flagged our waitress down. After telling her what we wanted, she reached over, and plugged our order into that little machine.

Before I start pointing out why this bothers me, let me just acknowledge that this piece of technology isn’t a bad idea. To be fair, in a busy restaurant like Red Robin, to have a server available at all times just isn’t feasible. However, my concern stems from when people start opting to only interact with the machine. Look at grocery stores, those new self check-out machines are growing in popularity (to my knowledge) while cashier registers gather dust. What will people do when technology replaces them in the workplace? We are growing ever closer to this “tipping-point” and I don’t think people have realized it. I site the waitress using the very technology that makes her obsolete to support this obliviousness.

Now I’m not arguing to remove this technology. I personally like having the option to order without having to flag someone down. I also understand the practicality of this piece of technology. Yet, I find it hard to believe that both of these options will be able to coexist for long. What does this mean for my dream of being a cashier at my local grocery store? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. maxresdefault

 

Social Studies

No. Starting things off, this is not a blog about middle school geography. This is a discussion (albeit one-sided) of how we define what it means to be social.

Last time on IDEAS Seminar, our young hero (me) mentioned that in this day and age he felt that we were becoming less social as a people. To me, it seems that through technology we’ve grown more distant from one another and our social skills as a whole are on the decline. Rather than going to talk to someone face to face, mano a mano, we can just call someone on the phone… but who am I kidding? No one actually calls anyone anymore, now we just text each other back and forth maniacally. How much information can you really gather from a series of acronyms followed by an emoji? I mean really? To me, social relationships are cultivated when in physical contact and texting/ social media is just a method to arrange these “get-togethers”.

Yet some would argue that what it means to be “social” is now changing. Some say that through our technological revolution, our definition of social is changing. Perhaps, in modern times, the most social thing you can do is to update your status on Facebook. Admittedly, texting may not be as informational as physical contact, yet the shear amount that most people participate in may make up for this. If you’re texting someone all day, in some ways you’ve been interacting with that person for hours on end. This is especially true of two people who are in a relationship. I dare you to try and take away either person’s phone. You will lose more than just a few limbs.

Perhaps it isn’t fair to say that we are becoming less social as a whole.But who really knows? All I know, is it’s time for your hero (me) to sign out for the day.

social_longshadow_icons_by_aha_soft_icons-d7ynkqo

*This unmodified picture is from: http://aha-soft-icons.deviantart.com/art/Social-LongShadow-Icons-481470144

Technology and the Public

universe-1044107_960_720

Look out your back window. What if I told you that the house just down the street- yeah that one- was actually a nuclear reactor? How would you react? If you have any sense of self preservation, you’ll probably freak out a little bit. In fact, you’d probably try to move as far away as possible as quickly as you could. Hello Tahiti. Yet, for as long as that house had been there, you’d been living safely in blissful ignorance.

This brings up an interesting question, should the “public” be aware of everything that is going on around them? On the one hand, through popular culture and movies we seem to be ingrained with this fascination for government conspiracies. Basically, we are trained to hate when the government doesn’t tell us something. Yet, how do you explain to a single mother of four children both the danger and benefits of a nuclear reactor?

As a budding engineer, I hastronaut-11050_960_720.jpgave this ingrained belief that ultimately the expansion of the technological universe will benefit human kind. To achieve this, we have to keep experimenting, taking risks, and learning from our failures. Sadly though, if you tell someone that they could erupt into flames at any minute, they instantly want to shut down whatever threatens them; and they are most certainly right to do this. But are they? At the other end of the spectrum, does the end justify the means? Maybe the answer isn’t as black and white as it seems.

 

 

 

The End of Reality

For the next thirty seconds I’m going to pretend to be the host of a wildly successful game show and you will be my honored guest.*Ahem*

“Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome back to ‘would you rather?’ the best game show of 2016. I’m your host, Dan the Fantastic, and standing beside me is <insert your name here>. Will you all please greet our guest of honor?”

*Massive amounts of loud clapping ensues*

“Alright, I think that’s enough. Let’s get this started. As you know I’m going to ask you a question and you have ten seconds to answer it. During this time, the crowd will also select their answer and if you agree with them you win a brand new <insert generic car brand name here> ! Doesn’t that sound wonderful?”

*More frantic clapping*

“Without further adieu, here we go. ‘Would you rather: spend your days toiling about in a generic office setting, filing paperwork, or *pause for dramatic effect* would you like to pilot a spaceship into the heat of a battle where the fate of the known galaxy relies on your skills, and your skills alone?”

–End Game Show Section–

Now, that was a bit excessive, I’ll admit it. Yet if you stuck with me and answered that question, you probably chose the latter of the two options. Now sure, working at a desk and having a steady job is incredibly respectable, so if you chose that, you probably made the smart choice. Yet, there is a growing number of people who would pick the second choice simply because of a desire to escape mundane reality.

I recently became aware of the existence of something called the Oculus Rift. This new gizmo is placed over your eyes, like a large awkward pair of glasses, and pulls you into a pseudo-virtual world. It’s not perfect, but from my experience, the visual sensations are pretty convincing. As much as I love technology and this new advancement in general, I once again find myself hesitating slightly.

In my experience, I’ve found that there are a growing number of people who dedicate a significant portion of their lives to certain video games. They’re the people who will spend weeks living inside a game. They will spend days cultivating relationships, friendships,
and even romances in the virtual world with computer generated characters. Now, there isn’t really anything inherently wrong with this. The problem arises from a fact that I find indisputable for a person like this. At a certain point, this person is more living their virtual life than there physical life. Doing so undoubtedly throws there perspective on reality into question. So what will happen to these people when a new technology exis
ts that allows for an even more immersive experience? Trying to live in this world is hard enough. Trying to live in two… well… I don’t know if it can truly be done. When the lines between fantasy and reality become indistinguishable, what will our world look like?

The Oculus Rift headset is tested by attendees at the Eurogamer Expo at Earls Court in London.

This Unmodified Picture is from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bagogames/13944710577

Littered in Waste

Do me a favor, go look out the nearest window. In fact, open that window up and take a nice deep breath of fresh air. Did your lungs just fill with noxious fumes? Are your eyes burning red from the sting of rancid air? I should hope not.

Now, I’m not a major advocate for save the planet regimes. I’ll even go as far to admit that I rarely recycle. Yet, there comes a point when even I start to get worried for the future of the Earth; even if it is for selfish reasons. I hate to break it to everyone out there, unless we pull a Matt Damon and start colonizing Mars, we need the Earth to survive.

This last seminar I was exposed to a production entitled “Manufactured Landscape.” In typical Prof. Best fashion, he once again managed to pick a film that would mess me up in the head. Throughout the first hour (we’re only half-way through at this point) I watched as photograph after photograph flew by. Most were of living and working conditions in certain areas of China. One of the most powerful/haunting/moving/tear-jerking images was that of an old woman sitting on her front porch. Surrounding her tiny little abode was a massive pile of industrial waste packed into little cubes; like you saw in the movie Wall-E. It’s one of those images that makes you lose a little faith in humanity. Then, later, there was an image of a massive ship sitting in the middle of a muddy landscape. Maybe there was something wrong with it, I don’t know. Yet the most concerning part of all this is that we just left it sitting there. This massive testament to the skill we have as engineers and as an intelligent people was left sitting out to rot. Tossed aside for someone else to deal with.

At a certain point people have to realize that we need to start taking steps to fix the mistakes we are making. As a people we have always been great at pointing out our flaws and mistakes, but we are the worst went it comes to actually doing something about it. So, what are we going to do about this? What are you going to do?

*Dramatically shoots wad of paper into recycle bin*

8458066018_c43d59ae5c_o

This unmodified picture is from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/juditk/8458066018