The Corona Virus pandemic caused many people to re-evaluate and reflect on the way they conduct their lives. Free from the pressure of commuting, working and family they now have the time and time to reassess. Effectively time has now slowed to a pace more compatible with our cognitive processes.
The rapid spread of both the virus itself and reporting of its progress and consequences by the media inculcated instant panic amongst people around the world. The source of this panic, aside from the virus itself, is technology and the way it dominates our lives. Twenty four hour news coverage has an insatiable appetite for fresh events to report. Ensuing social media commentary parasitically sent instant shock waves of panic and despair around the globe.
A Consumer Society demands immediate gratification, consequently answers and solutions to the pandemic were demanded of Governments and Scientists by media outlets voraciously regurgitating every new calamity. No stone left unturned in the battle to claim ‘bragging rights for a ‘scoop’, that most precious media one-upmanship prize.
Technology provides benefits, indeed society is addicted like a junkie. But like a drug technology has a dark side. I suspect this may be a generational perspective, each penultimate generation viewing new technology with misgiving. Having become comfortable with the effects of technologies matured in their lifetimes, people think new technological advances are a step too far, with each new advance it appears human control and interaction in a task is diminished. If the trend continues there will be no need for human interaction at all, Artificial Intelligence looms ominously. Proponents of new technologies always dismiss these concerns as inconsequential compared to the benefits; but look at the assumptions made when Personal Computers were introduced into the workplace. “This will make your job easier; that sales report will take half the time now!” The unspoken element of that response was how much extra work you would be given, plus the additional stress involved when the new technology (computer) stopped working and had to be restarted, losing all the data you had keyed in, making you miss the deadline to complete a task. Sound familiar?
But these are relatively minor concerns compared to the most significant effects technology has on society’s physical and mental health. Our brains are like muscles unless they are exercised they wither, conversely the more they are exercised the better they perform, with associated benefits to our general health and well-being. This is a particularly sinister effect of technology, it predisposes its devotees toward lethargy and apathy. Consider the enemy, satellite navigation, SMS Messaging, E-Mails, even calculators and spell checkers, all of these ‘useful’ devices diminish our cognitive abilities.
A significant element of our social interaction relies on an ability to conduct the interaction with appropriate responses. Considering that a 2006 behavioural science report estimates 7% of communication being verbal with body language conveying 55% and tone of voice contributing 35% of human communication, together with an intuitive understanding of mood or atmosphere, it seems clear how deficient emails and SMS messages are at effective communication.
What was the most hackneyed technology benefit? Quicker, faster is better. Speed, pure and simple. Technology does not encourage us to take the time to be considerate towards our colleagues / customers / correspondents, we must dash off as many replies as quickly as possible.
So in the context of living in a Corporatist technocracy, what did the Covid lock down show us? For a time it allowed us to shift our focus from the daily grind of work to consider other aspects of our existence, to consider a new perspective on our lives. Perhaps we should think of kindness and tolerance towards others as well as ourselves, perhaps the biggest lesson is to lift our heads up from the technology-driven treadmill and look around. Consider, that we are all connected in our society. In some small way shape or form, we all contribute ‘our bit’. Resist the dismissive email or text, and be the kinder more tolerant person that is within us all.