It's evolution, baby

How will tech contribute to our development as a species?

An issue that has been bugging me over the past few days: How will tech contribute to human development and evolution?

Ruminations on this topic began when I read an article titled "Health Problems Related to the Geek Lifestyle", which racks up a list of tech-related complaints including back pain, headaches and insomnia. I think "poor attention span" may have been on there too, but I couldn't be bothered reading that far.

Further consternation arrived courtesy of a Reuters-sourced story on CNET News.com about the decline of traditional drawing skills in the wake of design software like Photoshop.

Minor physical ailments such as SMS-induced thumb joint RSI, mouse-moving wrist calluses and the gamer's slumped posture are prevalent among generation tech. But what about the grander-scale effects of living the digital life? Will neat penmanship, portraiture skills and the ability to construct grammatically correct sentences become rare in the near future?

Much has been written in the past few years about the effect that technology has had on our literacy skills, with a focus on those pesky teenagers with their "C U L8er"s and their radical haircuts who go hooning around the skate park with a flagrant disregard for local ordinances.

As someone who laments the omission of the em dash in the predictive text symbol menu of mobile phones, I get a little emotional at the idea that there might be a generation for whom the semicolon is "that winking symbol thing people used to make smiley faces with before it became passé".

The semicolon is my favourite punctuation mark of all time. It is the Scarlett Johansson of punctuation marks; it's not obvious or mainstream, the winking shape makes it look a bit cheeky, and it represents a pause and a sharp intake of breath before the ensuing text tumbles across the page.

While others -- OK, the vast majority -- may not be so passionate about punctuation, the idea that the semicolon may soon fade into obscurity like some second-rate Australian Idol contestant is surely cause for alarm.

Granted, the English language is constantly evolving, with new words (podcast, blog, mashup) appearing while antiquated terms fade away. That's unavoidable, and actually pretty interesting. But how long will it take before today's standard English seems like Chaucerian Ye Olde Englishe?

Like some linguistic equivalent of the Amish, I'm feeling a fear-based compulsion to reject newer modes of expression and hark back to the days of yore by using phrases like "hark back to the days of yore". Nonetheless, it would be fascinating to see how tech will affect our physicality, language and the skills deemed necessary for artistic and scientific endeavour over the next hundred years or so. Anyone possessing an immortality serum is advised to contact me.

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