This morning i had a terrifying glimpse into the future. A time where technology was defunct, and the masses wandered dazed and confused, unsure what they were supposed to do now. A merry band of angry men, rioted over lost time, and the inconvenience at having to talk to other human beings as part of their purchasing ritual.
Ok I’m being a tad melodramatic.
I happened to be in a well known catalogue store, when the computer system went down this morning. You wouldn’t believe the resulting chaos. Neither staff or customer had any idea what to do, as all their systems: tills, ordering, dispatch from the warehouse and communication, rely on technology. They literally came to a standstill, until one young genius staff member came up with the idea of using a pen and paper, the till ‘offline’ and, shock horror, their voices to communicate!
It was interesting that it took ten minutes for a simple solution to be suggested, but alongside that chain of events, what intrigued me was the reaction of the customers. Three wandered in circles between the various electronic devices, looking utterly dazed and confused. It was like they were cars on a track ,and simply could not comprehend the idea that they needed to speak to somebody to make their order.
Two further people were huffing and puffing, muttering about lost time, getting increasingly agitated at the confusion of the staff, and resulting wait in a queue.
The two remaining customers, of which I was one, struck up a conversation, both being more voyeristic, than agitated or confused. We had a nice chat for the few minutes we were waiting, and both went on our way, me empty handed, as my storage solution wasn’t even in stock….. Damn you A***s.
I had been talking to my super smart cousin recently, about the latest leaps in technology, and likely loss of jobs to the humble human being. It all started with a self checkout, and rapidly became self driving cars, self mowing lawnmowers and self hoovering hovers.
It is predicted that there will be a 20% loss of manual employment in the next twenty years, as we see robotics and computer technology take another huge step forward. Economically that means a wider poverty gap between the haves, and have nots. Technology is expensive, combine that with substantial job loss, and I can see a vision of the Flintstones versus the Jetsons in my minds eye.
It’s kind of freaky.
Assuming that we do continue our love affair with technology, that leaves us in a pretty vulnerable position. As witnessed this morning, we are already seeing the normalisation of technology use. We don’t even really think about it anymore. Using a sat nav instead of navigating with maps, signs, and observation. Paying for our shopping without any actual cash changing hands. Writing a letter without a pen or stamp. I wonder how long it will be before we forget these skills? Have we all taught our children how to do these things?
Following through this chain of thought, leads me to a crazy place. Venturing back to life, pretechnology, sounds idyllic in a way. People living ‘the good life’, smiling and connected to the world around them again.
It’s the journey to get back there, that would scare me.
Based on my snapshot of society this morning, there would be chaos, and chaos breeds panic, fear and anger, none of which are particularly appealing. People would have to learn to communicate face to face all over again, banking and information systems would crash. As I said, madness would reign.
There is no doubt that technology has bought us many wonderful things, but I wonder how much we are losing along the way, without even realising it? Speaking to someone in a queue for a bus, instead of looking at your phone. Interacting with another human being, when paying for your shopping, instead of getting mad with a machine shouting ‘unknown item in bagging area!’ at you.
These are small social connections, but they make us more human.
Wonderful things can come from chance social interactions. I have met many of the people important to me in my life, by being open to the world around me. Striking up those conversations I wouldn’t have even noticed were possible, had I been holding my phone. Smiling at a stranger, who then asks me for directions, or if I have seen her lost cat.
My generation is the last one to become adult, before mobile phone and computers were common place. We used to knock for our friends on the way to the park, and later in life, the pub. If you arranged to meet at 8, you met at 8, or risked trawling the most likely haunts that your group had moved onto.
I am very aware how life has changed, having four smart children of 16,14, 9 and 2 1/2. My two youngest could type their names before writing them, and the 9 year olds first full sentence was ‘can I check my email mummy?’. My eldest two look at me like I’m mad, if I suggest calling their friends on their landline to make a social arrangement, it’s obviously quicker to spend half an hour on a group Facebook message, and parallel snapchat…. Hmmmmmm or is it, young padewans!?!
See, things have changed, we blinked and missed it.
Tonight, I’m teaching the children, how to read a map…….