Social Question

makethebest's avatar

Do You Think Modern Technology Has Improved Our Lives?

Asked by makethebest (22points) July 14th, 2014

Children no longer play outside but spend most of their time on computers and tabs. Relationships are all computerized with people no longer communicating by means of talking to each other.

Its going to get worse before it gets better?

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38 Answers

Mimishu1995's avatar

Yes and no.

And it depends more on how people use it.

Children no longer play outside but spend most of their time on computers and tabs? That is bad, they don’t get outside often. But they can learn from the internet. Relationships are all computerized with people no longer communicating by means of talking to each other? Yeah, people can be lazier. But that way of communicating is good for long distance too.

hearkat's avatar

Yes. I have made numerous friends online, and through sites like this, I strengthened my social skills in general. I met my fiancé through social networking (not online dating), and we talk face to face – often about interesting things we’ve learned online. I have reconnected with people I’d lost touch with after they moved out of the are after High School 30 years ago. I joined groups of people with shared interests via, and I went on hikes and to festivals and zip lining and skydiving – I’d have never had those opportunities if technology had not been the conduit for the connection.

Here’s a specific example of technological improvement: I was a great map reader and had a map for every county and the neighboring states – but now all that fits in my pocket, updates with new construction, and includes live traffic reports from other drivers. Other information is shared more rapidly and easily, as well.

Technology is a tool we use as we see fit. Each generation says that the previous one is going to be ruined because the technology they have, but humans adapt. My son had Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel and video games that I didn’t have – but I only gave him access for about an hour a day, and made sure he got outside to play. These are choices we make. If you’re tired of seeing eCard and grumpy cat memes, seek out other people to interact with, and on that note: Welcome to Fluther!

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Without any doubt.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Yes. Life is better. Much better. And the trend will continue.
Cars are more reliable, last longer, get better mileage, Your TV/entertainment system has power and resolution that was unattainable 10 years ago. Medical tests and scans have improved and can diagnose diseases and conditions while they are small and can be easily corrected.
Technology is a tool and like any tool it can be used wisely or abused. Fortunately we are always free to to not use it.

My “bold” prediction is that social media will face a reckoning in the not too distant future. Its use is growing exponentially and at some point people will realize that every post steals a bit of our precious time. . Instagram, pinterest, FB, MySp, Tumblr, etc all competing for our attention and can easily become bottomless pits.
All things in moderation.

canidmajor's avatar

Technology is a tool. How we choose to use it makes the difference. Technology saved my life. Technology has allowed a number of my friends to have children. Technology allows me to keep in touch with loved ones who live far away. I can carry a thousand books in my pocket, avoid horrible traffic in order to lessen my commute and thus spend more time with my children. I can plan a better garden, arrange a last-minute soccer game, and understand political circumstances from many viewpoints.

Yes, I think modern technology has improved my life, at least.

longgone's avatar

“Children no longer play outside but spend most of their time on computers and tabs. Relationships are all computerized with people no longer communicating by means of talking to each other.”

You are exaggerating quite a bit. I see children outside every day, and I’m pretty sure most couples talk to each other once in a while.

GloPro's avatar

Welcome to Fluther!

There are so many ways that technology irks me. No one can ever live with not knowing if they are right or not. Mid-conversation, you will hear someone call out “google!” And then everyone takes to their smartphone. Kids speak txtspk, which is so ignorant and uneducated. No one seems to care that spelling and punctuation are not being reinforced with our students!

Over sharing. Desensitizing. Instantly gratifying. Propaganda spreading. And on and on and on.

Technology is shrinking the need for a workforce, yet the population grows. How do you earn your keep if cashiers are no longer needed? If assembly line workers are all robots? If irrigation is done through a complex timer? Yes, company profits soar and expenses are cut, but at what cost to a functioning society?

There are so many positives. But the negatives are bound to catch up with us.

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

Medically, yes. Socially, no.

jerv's avatar

If you think of “worse” as “different from when I grew up” as it seems that you do from the way you asked this question, then it will never get better; never, ever, ever!

The real problem is that many do not understand the technology, and of those that lack the understanding, they are split between those who stress out trying (and failing) to make technology work for them and those who let that lack of understanding turn to fear and/or hatred of technology.

But people like @LuckyGuy and I are part of a group that is growing; those who understand technology, and use it as a tool just as humanity has used electricity, fire, wheels, and sharpened sticks. Society is changing because of technology. Accept that and adapt, or get left behind.

While it’s true that technological advancement has outpaced our ability to universally use it wisely, that doesn’t mean technology is bad. Look at the hubbub when cars first came out. Hell, look at the backlash against the Industrial Revolution. Are you saying that you want to turn the clock back five centuries? Or are you merely expressing xenophobia?

Oh, and there are plenty of kids playing outside in my neighborhood as well.

@GloPro Someone has to setup and repair the machines. The unskilled workforce may dwindle, but those like me will have job security. Again, keep up or get left behind. The only ones who will actually suffer are those who don’t educate themselves with the skills that the workforce of the future will need. Did secretaries a century ago need to know MS Office? Did metal workers of the Middle Ages need to know how to use oxy-acetylene torch?

Bill1939's avatar

@jerv a problem not mentioned is that many new technological jobs require an above average intelligence. Those with IQ’s less than 100 (theoretically half the working population) are increasingly unemployable. While education and training will benefit those whose are not intellectually challenged, the future for many others is grim. Wage disparity will continue to increase, as will social unrest.

marinelife's avatar

I totally agree with you. People Skype and IM instead of interacting. They walk around with their noses buried in the phones or tablets almost unaware of their surroundings.

hominid's avatar

Great answers above, including @jerv and @hearkat, and @canidmajor.

@marinelife: “People Skype and IM instead of interacting. They walk around with their noses buried in the phones or tablets almost unaware of their surroundings.”

What’s the connection between the behavior of these people you see and “modern technology”? Would these people have been aware of their surroundings if it were not for this technology?

I am 42 and I remember parents and teachers grumbling about the invention of the Walkman. It was a big deal. People don’t interact with each other, we’re unaware of our surroundings, etc.

In nearly every way, I see inevitable progress as at least a neutral thing, and in many ways a great thing. Sure, I make a living developing software, so I suppose I am looking at it from a different perspective. But my kids don’t have iPods/iPads/phones. We don’t watch tv. It’s possible to nurture creativity and free play in children while living with the beauty of “modern technology”. The existence of our current technology allows me to be present in a way that would have been impossible 10 years ago. I can delegate all of my busy work to my phone/services, which frees me up to really be with my children. It is liberating.

Yes – I hear about teenagers being tied to their phones, etc. But I am not sure we have the ability to make any judgment about their activity – at least without fully understanding it. It’s quite possible that what appears as bizarre and antisocial might simply be more of the same. I don’t see any evidence that teens are interacting less with each other. Their modes of communication may be changing – just like they did with the invention of the telephone (or the written word before that). But I don’t think we can look at a new means of communication and immediately write it off because we don’t understand it (“The kids these days and their rock-n-roll music….”).

@makethebest – Your question title asks if “modern technology” has improved our lives, but the details in your question propose that it has made our lives worse. While “modern technology” as clearly improved my life and many people I know, is it possible to consider that in some aspects of our lives it may be neither improving nor ruining our lives? Can we just be witnessing change, like everyone does? When we try to ground ourselves in models of “new vs. old”, it seems the new = whatever has been invented since we have been an adult. But our whole childhood and way of life was unrecognizable from the generation before, etc. I have a feeling this conversation has occurred many times and will continue to.

canidmajor's avatar

From Douglas Adams – On technology

dxs's avatar

So many people my age are obsessed with their phones I sometimes wish I were alive in the 80s or something. Yet, there are still some people I know who actually do things other than play with electronics. @hominid People my age who have no interest in electronics like me are becoming harder to find. It’s not that I’m against them, I just don’t care for them and prefer to do other things.
Technology has given us many more advances, though. Relationships? I think technology has made things better. Think of the gay community. I’ve never been on online dating sites, but I’m sure there’s a much wider pool of people there than who you can meet in real life.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeppers. Although it has also taken some things away, which is a shame. But it’s called “progress.”

marinelife's avatar

@hominid I can see that there are benefits, but I think the drawbacks outweigh those. For example, I was sitting at a stoplight, and a woman walked by the car talking so loudly into a cell phone that we could hear her from 50 feet away. People think nothing of talking really loudly almost everywhere on their cell phones. I wish that a feedback loop had been incorporated into the technology so they could hear themselves as we can on landlines.

I don’t like the idea of my location being tracked at all times by my cell phone even if it’s off.

Would I trade all of these negatives for more privacy? Yes. For life before the Internet? I don’t know. That has made my life infinitely easier.

hominid's avatar

@marinelife: “I was sitting at a stoplight, and a woman walked by the car talking so loudly into a cell phone that we could hear her from 50 feet away.”

But that has nothing to do with the technology, right? I mean, there are 2 players here – the technology and the woman. The woman was the “problem” in your eyes, not the phone. It would seem odd to blame the the fact that my neighbors engage in open burning, which creates air pollution, on the existence of fire. The agent in the condition is the person.

It’s also worth noting that this problem is one that is going to be a rarity soon. Phone calls are a a shrinking part of the use of a mobile phone. Seeing someone talk into one seems like a melding of two worlds. It’s an attempt to force an old-school method of communication (the phone conversation) onto a modern communication device.

@marinelife: “I don’t like the idea of my location being tracked at all times by my cell phone even if it’s off.”

You don’t like this. And you can choose to opt out by not getting a phone – or pushing to work against this. But I love tracking. This is exactly what I want from my technology and I get much value from it. When I pull up to Whole Foods, it serves me up a list of things I need. When I have a doctor appointment (I have plenty of those), it monitors traffic from my current location and tells me exactly when I need to leave. But again, there is nothing being imposed on you. I get value from location services and I choose to opt-in. You don’t feel comfortable with it, and don’t need to.

It seems that we all have preferences. But I don’t see any justification for the claims that our current class of technology is bad. Sure, there are constant growing pains. But this is an amazing time – and I’m glad that I am alive to live through it.

Blondesjon's avatar

Are you happier because of modern technology?

If the answer is yes than yes modern technology has improved your life.

If the answer is no than no modern technology has not improved your life.

As far as to how it improves anybody else’s life is really up to anybody else to decide.

jerv's avatar

@Blondesjon Pretty much. My life is better and my job is possible because of modern technology.

@marinelife No such thing as a free lunch. But tracking came in handy after my car accident…

hearkat's avatar

I didn’t even mention the difference technology has made in my career – it’s been phenomenal. When I was in grad school, I was told that while a digital hearing instrument was great in theory, it could never happen because of latency and other processing issues. Now we have hearing instruments that connect directly to the iPhone via Bluetooth. Inconceivable! Amazing advances have also been made in diagnostic technology, too.

talljasperman's avatar

It’s provided years of entertainment. I like civilization two. I went to class just to play video PC games.

jerv's avatar

@talljasperman There’s more to computers than games. I use a computer controlled 5-axis milling machine to cut metal into complex shapes that would be impossible on a manual machine… and make not-bad money doing it. Maybe if you had paid attention in class, you could do what I do and earn an easy $35–80k/yr.\

@Bill1939 The same could be said of driving a car. There was a time when drivers had to adjust fuel mixture and ignition timing manually, both tasks now done by computer (with an intermediate step at vacuum advance distributors and more modern carburetors). Cars of yesteryear were unreliable enough that all car owners needed to be full-fledged mechanics. Nowadays, most people can’t even drive stick or check their own oil, yet we have more drivers than ever. More average people using technology. Or are you arguing that intelligence has declined over time?

SecondHandStoke's avatar

^ Cars and technology. Truly the double edged sword.

So I can’t help but have deeply mixed feelings.

Automotive technology can be astounding: Carbon fiber structural units, titanium break away bolts, oil analysis systems, computer management, active aerodynamics, laser headlights, the list goes on.

It looks like we will even see the extinction of the engine throttle body eventually, it’s duty replaced by increases in active valve technology. Fewer cars today even have a dipstick.

The problem is that for every technology that enhances the driving experience there’s one that dulls it.

A car laden with 11 airbags has greater mass than one with none. The United States’ crash requirements have kept many automotive masterpieces from ever seeing our shores. Nannystate pedestrian safety features have frustrated attractive and aerodynamic design.

To meet US requirements cars are trending against logical evolution and are becoming taller. A nightmare for anyone interested in good aerodynamics, visibility and handling. Thank you so much SUV driving idiots.

Technologies can be used for good or evil. An electric motor can fill in the gaps in torque during a shift or increase an individual wheel’s speed to enhance cornering. Or it can be used to serve someone’s smug sense of conspicuous non-consumption.

A computer technology can adjust headlight angle to compensate for braking dive. Or it can help some poor soul check his email.

Active steering technology might save the clueless hack’s ass without him even being aware of it. But as applied in some Nissan products feels like the car is steering itself. Why would I ever find that desirable?

So what’s the lover of the driving experience to do?

Buy a hypertechnological car that convincingly overcomes restrictions like I’ve mentioned. You can easily get into the millions of dollars.

Or you could buy an older, simpler car and update some of the features.

The roads are becoming littered with slews of very well built, flawlessly reliable but depressingly boring cars. From the perspective of the driving oriented the middle class is dying.

jerv's avatar

@SecondHandStoke I prefer compacts from the late-‘80s as they’re 400–700 pounds lighter. A modern engine in those old chassis is awesome. I saw an original Mini Cooper with a 175hp Honda VTEC engine swap; fun! As for electrics, I know a certain electric ‘72 Datsun with >1200 ft-lbs of torque and a 0–60 time of 1.8 seconds. Street-legal, registered, daily driver, can run a 10.2 on the ¼-mile. Sometimes it’s best to mix old and new.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Read about that Datsun.

Too fun.

Bill1939's avatar

@jerv I’m confused: “The same could be said of driving a car.” As complex as early horseless carriages were to operate (especially the steam powered vehicles), most who could afford such a machine were little brighter than the average yet they quickly mastered the technique. Having a computer be the technique master is more convenient.

My father, who would be 98 were he alive, was a Ford auto mechanic for a quarter century. He could diagnose by simply listening most engine problems, until cars had a host of sensors feeding a computer information. Many, and maybe most auto mechanics today know only how to attach a cable to a port, push a few buttons on a console and perform the part exchange recommended.

I do not see intelligence declining over time. I do see a failure of society to foster intellectual exploration by all children, thus diminishing opportunities for individual achievements, but I’ve digressed. My point was that technology is exacerbating the problem of too many lacking skills necessary for employment in a modern world, and that a significant proportion of the world’s population is unable to acquire them.

SecondHandStoke's avatar


The VTEC swapped Minis are cool but It would be much easier to buy a DC2 Type R. I know, I know, that isn’t the point.

The UA7 TL Type S manual is a fantastic car completely ruined by front drive. Conversion to rear drive. THERE’S a project.

Then there’s this:


jerv's avatar

@Bill1939 I diagnosed many issues on my wife’s ‘98 Saturn the same way despite the OBDII controls, solid-state ignition, and multiport EFI. But I agree that curiosity has declined.

However, that is a failure on the part of society. I wouldn’t blame technology for people becoming intellectually lazy. Hardware is truly not really any more complex than it ever was, merely different. Software has advanced, but anyone who can understand fine literature can understand software. The problem is that we’ve failed to upgrade the wetware; people.

talljasperman's avatar

@jerv I mastered QBasic… and I had problems learning C++ and Java. I passed the JavaScript class, but it never prepared me for Java.

jerv's avatar

@talljasperman G-code is a simpler language, yet enough for my machines to do what they do.

talljasperman's avatar

@jerv I consider you an expert in all things technical.

Bill1939's avatar

@jerv I suspect that the proportion of people inclined to be intellectually lazy has been constant for centuries, maybe millennia. Hardware once referred to hand tools, whose uses were largely intuitive. I found Apple Basic an easy language with which to write or modify programs. I have never gotten beyond that now useless skill level. If I get an upgrade, will I be able to understand fine literature?

jerv's avatar

@Bill1939 Given the intelligence you’ve displayed elsewhere, I think the reason you never got beyond Apple BASIC was lack of interest in programming. Similarly, I’m not good with chemistry or biology as I just have no real interest in them and thus don’t bother retaining much knowledge about them.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

The ancient Pharaohs.

They considered themselves gods.

Yet they did not have modern climate control.

We do, what does that make us?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Most of the poorest folks in America have more than the richest kings in the past.

jerv's avatar

@Dutchess_III While true, it’s also true that the rising tide hasn’t lifted all boats. We may have advanced technology, but have we advanced society, or are we the same assholes, just with shinier toys?

Bill1939's avatar

Technology advances over decades. Human nature advances over millenniums, and societies reflect that nature. We may not be the same, but the smell is. Sadly some toys make killing more efficient.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@jerv What you said.

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