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marinelife's avatar

Are we becoming prisoners of technology?

Asked by marinelife (62314points) February 20th, 2012

I just heard of nomophobia, which is fear of being out of cell-phone range.

I was stunned that this phobia existed. It occurs, not surprisingly, at a much higher incidence in young people. (Since I lived most of my life without cell phones, I don’t have it.)

But when I think about exploration and the dangers thereof, and how mankind went out on all kinds of limbs to advance knowledge and explore, I wonder if the technology dependence is doing something fundamentally bad for us as a race.

What do you think?

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29 Answers

janbb's avatar

Great question but my iPad is in another room so I can’t Google the answer.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Don’t underestimate the adaptability of people.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Was it bad when Louis and Clark depended on ink and paper to make their quest matter to other people, instead of just being a couple dudes on a wacky canoe trip?

Was it bad that the Protestant Reformation wouldn’t have been much more than a few people in Wittenburg being pissed off without the printing press?

Is it bad that every living generation in America is dependent upon the car?

Is it bad that I can save tons of money by comparing prices while shopping without having to use extra gas driving around to various different stores before making a decision? Is it bad that your adult child can now easily call 911 when they’re in a field and that crazy man is chasing them (and perhaps being out of range of 911, and not their texting buddies, is the reason for nomophobia)? Is it bad that Arab Spring could happen on the scale that it did because of social networking?

wundayatta's avatar

That’s kind of ridiculous. It is humans who invent the technology, not the other way around. We invent it for a reason: it’s useful. It helps us do the stuff we really most want to do. If we are prisoners, it is prisoners of our own desires.

Dare we ask where our desires come from? Probably the same drives that made us so successful a species. Our tools help us gain status and help us be more desirable mates. Since this is really the only thing that matters to our flesh and blood selves, it is perfectly normal and to be expected that we would freak out if we lose some of our capabilities.

Losing a cell phone is huge. I’m sure there are people who would argue that these days, a cell phone is even more important than a few toes. I mean really, which would you rather be without for the rest of your life if you could only have one: your left little toe or a cell phone (upgradeable, of course). If we forced people to make a choice, I would be very surprised if fewer than half the population were minus a toe.

thorninmud's avatar

There is, maybe, a growing aversion to being in a position where our desires can’t be immediately gratified. Technology may have contributed to that, but it goes beyond technology.

Just to take a simple (non-technology) example, when I was a kid nobody carried water bottles. It’s not that the technology didn’t exist. Now, seemingly, everybody carries water bottles. My son won’t leave the house without a water bottle in his pocket. I asked a professor friend of mind just yesterday whether he had observed the same thing I had, that students carry water bottles almost like we carried No.2 pencils. He said, “Oh my God! This has got to be the most hydrated generation in history!”

There’s nothing wrong with being well-hydrated or with water bottles. My point is that we used to just wait until we came across a water fountain. There was nothing desperate about being a little thirsty. My son asks me “How can you go so long without drinking anything?”. I just have no trouble waiting.

We have become an “on demand” culture, used to having what we want, when we want it. The market caters to that expectation, quite naturally, by providing services and goods right when we want them. And that’s where technology comes in: it makes this instant gratification possible.

So I do think there’s a weird connection between the expectation that I should be able to call or be called at any time, and the need to be able to take a sip of water whenever I feel like it. Maybe we’re just not as comfortable with having unfulfilled urges.

john65pennington's avatar

Its making all of us dependent on buttons to push and email and text messages to read.

Its making couch potatoes of our children. Instead of sports, an IPod has taken its place and that is not good.

lifeflame's avatar

I know I’m addicted to the internet, because it’s become a habit to check my email/facebook/fluther when I get up, and if I don’t, I feel antsy.
And I find myself gravitating to my smartphone during commutes.

But I’m conscious of this, and so I have days where I say: okay, on my days off, let’s not touch the computer until noon. Go find something else to do.

Zyx's avatar

I make an effort to maintain the skills I need to survive without technology but I think we should use it as long as we have it. Survival is more important than scientific discovery for now but I believe that could change some day.

marinelife's avatar

@Aethelflaed I think you are missing my point. None of the things that you mentioned kept the explorers from going in the first place. Not getting out out of cell phone range would have.

@wundayatta “It is humans who invent the technology, not the other way around.” But it is humans who have become prisoner to it if they cannot get out of cell phone range. How will they go to Mars or further afield?

6rant6's avatar

I’d be pretty bummed if I couldn’t find a toilet. Life would be complicated without a fridge. I’d certainly miss artificial lighting. A toothbrush is nice to use occasionally. Toilet paper. Some way to keep in touch with people not in walking distance.

But that being said, I think I’d be okay with a more primal existence. I know that most of the junk I use, I use because it’s there. If I get stranded, or involuntarily incommunicado, or the power goes out, it doesn’t bother me. Usually seems like an opportunity.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@marinelife Sure it would have; without ink and paper, there’s no reason for the state to fund their little expedition. And the fear that you mentioned, it doesn’t actually prevent people from going out of cell phone range, it makes them afraid of going out of cell phone range. And not everyone has it. We’ll still need extraordinary people to do that initial exploring; Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were not just everyday Joes with no extra courage and drive to explore. Going to the moon was freaking crazy, and they were a little bit crazy for doing it.

tom_g's avatar

@thorninmud nailed it.

I am the opposite of a luddite, but I do not delude myself into thinking that more tech == less work or better life. There may be some exceptions, such as artificial limb technology and tech that can help people communicate who are unable to. However, most technology seems to be to have an effect of shifting the expectations.

Louis C.K. on Conan is somewhat related here.

Jeruba's avatar

One of the things I’m enjoying about Stephen King’s latest novel, 11/22/63, is the trip we take through time along with the main character, Jake, from 2011 back to 1958. Jake’s adaptation to life before high-tech became a way of life (and what that way of life looked like as seen from a 2011 point of view) is one of the compelling aspects of the book.

Even those of us who remember 1958 (and 1963) haven’t seen it like this: in direct juxtaposition, as seen from now and not then.

I haven’t read a King novel in probably 15 years, but he has won me back with this one.

Berserker's avatar

I agree with @CaptainHarley. But to counter what he says, I’d say the exact same thing he did. Someone obsessed about technology would be able to revert to more primitive things if they were forced to live without technology, no? I don’t think we’re prisoners. We just like it a lot. And it’s there for every day use, so of course everyone uses it, and of course fears and anxieties will create themselves around it.
I mean I’m not sure yet, but a phobia for the fear of cellphones probably exists.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

I have been screaming about this technology hostage situation for a long time. If I had young children I would be very careful about what I allowed them to use and NO ONE in my house is going to be plugged in all of the time. We memorize phone numbers; we aren’t going to be so lazy that we want a piece of equipment to dial a number for us. Wake up people.

mazingerz88's avatar

Fluther is my prison and its warden is my Mac so, yes. : (

Berserker's avatar

@mazingerz88 Dun be pissin off Mac man…he’ll put you in a solitary file for 24 hours where it’s like a PC DOS thing, but where typing on keys doesn’t do anything!

Coloma's avatar

Well, I’ve never carried a cell phone and probably won’t, but I do love my computer. My reasoning for not having a cell phone is I lve in an area where there is virtually no reception, at the bottom of a canyon in the hills. Infact, I had friends over last night and one of them was barely able to get a few bars by rotating around on my deck for a few minutes. lol
I also like being incognito and I do think peoples dependence on their cell phones and texting is way over the top.

wundayatta's avatar

@marinelife We are hostage to many things besides our tools. We are hostage to our planet, for one thing.

Will we get to Mars? I think you have made a very good point. Until we have solved the communication issues, we may not be able to handle that kind of transportation. It is all the more important in travelling to Mars because that travel will be impossible if we can’t keep the technology working flawlessly.

I doubt anyone will end up on Mars in my life time.

rooeytoo's avatar

We have just moved into a new house and are having big problems getting broadband plus the phone reception is just terrible. I have to go out in the back yard to achieve a fast quiet connection. So let me tell you, I am not only addicted to the technology, I am addicted to the speed as well! I will be so happy when I have broadband again. Please Telstra hurry, hurry, hurry. I don’t think it is bad, I love it. I don’t know how I survived without my smart phone and laptop. In Australia anyone suffering from this addiction is in serious trouble though because there are very few areas where reception is good once you are a few kilometers out of town.

digitalimpression's avatar

Perhaps not prisoners .. but maybe “Just Visiting” the prison….We’ve adapted. Not all of those adaptations are good. E.G. People use calculators more than ever now.. which can put a damper on their actual mathematical prowess. However, people can also collaborate on projects across the globe and create some really fascinating things as well.

wundayatta's avatar

Are we prisoners of our cars? Prisoners of our houses? Prisoners of our utensils? Prisoners of pasteurization?

If we are prisoners of technology, we are prisoners thousands of times over and over again.

Coloma's avatar

@wundayatta ” prisoners of our utensils…” LOL
Yes, spoons and forks have really become indispensable.

wundayatta's avatar

@Coloma I had my doubts, but now I think I would feel entirely comfortable sitting down to dinner with you. ;-)

So long as goose wasn’t on the menu.

Coloma's avatar

@wundayatta Sure, can do dinner, but…you will be wearing pants right? you eat with your “utensil”? lol

mattbrowne's avatar

“Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function.”

Without it our average life expectancy would be 25 years or less.

Every blessing can become a curse. This can be prevented by a life of moderation and in this case my answer is: no.

6rant6's avatar

Without utensils, we’d be forked.

wundayatta's avatar

@Coloma I am not my avatar. I only play a photoshopped butt on the internet. In real life, I am a librarian. And I can use chop sticks, if necessary. If we are eating Eritrean, I also know how to use my fingers, amazingly enough.

Berserker's avatar

@wundayatta I only play a photoshopped butt on the internet.

That’s a funny sentence lol.

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