Last week as I was skimming yet another article on how our lives are being ruined by technology, I got mad. I am sick of reading all these articles on how terrible phones and Facebook and video games are for all of us. Enough is enough! Today I want to talk about the great things technology has brought to our lives.
The Ability to Work from Anywhere
Even before I had kids, freedom and flexibility were important to me. I clearly remember a woman who spoke at my high school career day. She worked with computers and did it from home even in those days (pre-Internet). Freedom and flexibility were key reasons why I chose to major in Computer Science (along with Music and French). At the time my plan was to live in Aspen, ski all day, and work at night. I always hated cubicles and especially hated sitting in one at 8:00 in the morning.
The past 15 years of my career as a consultant would not have been possible without the technology that allows me to work from anywhere. I do 98% of my work remotely. I have occasional on-site client meetings, but I never take up residence. I have some clients that I have never met in person. Because I’m not in the building I’m able to focus on the important tasks and produce results efficiently. That means the client gets a lot of bang for their buck. I can typically handle a workload equivalent to a full-time project manager billing only 15 hours a week.
I live a very blended life with almost no boundaries. I work and play every day. I love being able to work during kid’s naps even when we are on vacation. And it has been life-changing to be able to plug in and work other places, so I can be with ill family members when they need help.
Access to Information
Instant access to so much information, it can be overwhelming. It’s hard to imagine the days when the library or the Encyclopedia Britannica were the only sources of information for school reports. Learning to use the library and catalogue system were critical to success in school. Now all this and more is readily available to those of us with Internet access. You can learn anything with the power of the Internet and much of it is free. The option to home-school has exploded with possibility by using the Internet and all the programs available.
Keeping in Touch
I keep in touch with a lot more people than I would without technology. Facebook, Facetime and easy digital pictures all keep my kids closer to their Granny. Sadly, we’re down to only one grandparent in our family. The ability to call someone in the car or on the run expands our opportunity for connection.
And let’s not forget getting in touch in the first place. I have several friends who met their spouses through online dating.
I assumed that technology has been the source of significant economic growth. Of course, I live in the United States and have always worked in technology sectors. When I dug in to do some research, it turns out to be a controversial topic. There is endless debate on productivity, discussion of economic measures and the suggestion that not enough time has passed to know. It makes me wonder whether there has been a redistribution of wealth rather than growth. But I am no economist.
Over the past 15 years, I have put an average of 500 miles a month on my car. The average American driver puts in 13,474 miles behind the wheel each year. I put in 6,000 miles, less than half. So much gas saved! It is because I no longer drive to work. However, I was surprised once again when I dug in to research the effect of the Internet on the environment. There is much debate. It turns out it takes a tremendous amount of energy to power the data centers, antennas and other hardware that make up the Internet.
There is no doubt that many things are more convenient with cell phones: GPS, Uber, travel, shopping, visits to Disneyland. Instant communication with family and friends to connect or pick up. It’s amazing now to think of everyday life without cell phones. Think of all the things you rely on them for. Think how peaceful life was before them… Oh wait, I’m focused on the good.
Adaptive and Assistive Technology
Technology has and continues to revolutionize the lives of persons with disabilities. Kids are 3D printing prosthetic hands for themselves and their friends! Every day we learn about new technologies to help those with mobility and sensory impairments.
Remote healthcare has the potential to offer access to quality healthcare to everyone on the planet. Whether that will ever happen is a much longer discussion. There is no disputing the huge potential.
Mobile healthcare is changing the face of healthcare delivery and allowing consumers to take a more active role in their diagnosis and care.
There are still a lot of questions about how these technologies will play out with such a big political component in the healthcare equation.
The Dark Side
Although I was inspired to take a positive view of technology, there is no disputing the dark side. Our four-year-old is not allowed any screen time and our fourteen-year-old has no social media accounts. We will add both at the appropriate time, but we will control and monitor carefully. Phones are not allowed at the dinner table.
I am shocked by the number of traffic deaths caused by driving while texting and I am terrified by the number of teen suicides reportedly caused by online bullying. I worry that imaginations are dulled by the loss of boredom. I wonder if anyone simply sits and daydreams any more. And I am saddened that the art of letter writing is fading away. I went to school in France for a year. My now husband and I wrote letters to each other nearly every day. I still have all those letters that we both wrote. I have the romantic notion that someday, one of our great, great, great grandchildren will find them and make them into a book.
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How has technology made your life better?