Have we become too dependent on tech?

Have we become too dependent on tech?

Summary: I was prepping a blog about something else but after reading my editor's blog and tracking several stories that are trending worldwide, I decided to pen this blog instead.It started when her blog questioned whether IT is ironic or not.

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I was prepping a blog about something else but after reading my editor's blog and tracking several stories that are trending worldwide, I decided to pen this blog instead.

It started when her blog questioned whether IT is ironic or not. In a nutshell, she argued that it was ironic that many slipups in network security are due to human oversights and errors rather than directly related to technology and its implementation per se.

I can't agree more. A good example I could use and which I was told many years ago is this: The backing up of our information is so important and everyone agrees with this. But despite having the most advanced and feature-packed software and automation processes, many still don't back up.

Why?

Because the human element is almost always never accounted for. Data backups are almost never done by individuals because the process is too complicated or they just don't think bad things will happen to their information--until they truly lose it.

Another irony that comes to mind is the fact that technology should make our lives simpler and automate things for us so much that it's supposed to increase our productivity and improve our quality of life.

But that's not true in every case. Sure the washing machine, vacuum cleaner and microwave oven may have eased our lives in general, but the same can't be said about the ubiquitous mobile phone.

I remember I was one of the first blokes amongst my friends to have my own mobile phone. And I'm not talking about those brick-like phones which can double up as a wheel wedge when your car is parked on an incline and your handbrakes don't work.

Those days, not much was made out of the mobile phone except to make calls and look cool as only a few people had phones with whom you could communicate.

Fast forward to today, not only are people carrying one mobile phone, it's quite common for them to own at least two or three phones. With the proliferation of the mobile phone in our lives, some of us have become so dependent on mobile technology that most of us would not be able to function without one.

BlackBerrys, iPhones, HTCs, coupled with apps like Facebook and Twitter and the likes are all touting the benefits of an always-on community of people, with many vendors, service and app providers leading the notion that we can always be connected to our work and loved ones.

Sure you can check your e-mail on-the-go so that you don't have to read 100 e-mail messages when you get back to the office. Sure, you can probably be more responsive to your customers because you're always reachable.

And don't even start talking about the convenience that the phone gives us. I still remember how I was able to contact my wife-to-be on my wedding day by ringing her wedding car driver up just to coordinate the timing of her arrival at the church.

But while this convenience is sometimes God-sent, it does also come with the "baggage of constant accessibility". By this I mean that people today are constantly checking their phone for e-mail, responding to them immediately and being distracted along the way, which especially irks me when I'm having a meal with them.

As technology advances, we've become so dependent on these so-called modern conveniences, without which, some of us can be crippled. Reading recently about how Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry has been banned in the United Arab Emirates only reinforces this notion.

Last week, UAE's regulators announced it would block e-mail, instant messaging (IM) and Web browsing on BlackBerry devices beginning Oct. 1,1 citing security concerns as a reason. Neighboring country, Saudi Arabia, also ordered the Canadian device maker to shut off its IM function last Friday.

As a result, BlackBerry users in the country were left in limbo wondering if their services would work or not. As at the time of posting this blog, a CNET News report noted citing a Reuters report that IM in Saudi still works.

But AFP also reported that many people are still waiting with bated breath as to whether the ban will be enforced or not, and how the ruling will affect them going forward.

Ramifications aside for RIM in this debacle, I ask if we have become too dependent on tech?

Have we become so hooked to our technology that we can't live without it?

Having written about technology for a long time, I've come to a conclusion that you can't stop technological trends and that no matter how much one does, technology will continue to roll out its advances whether we like it or not.

These advances could be good and bad and while technology per se is agnostic, people aren't. This is particularly true for me as I usher my children into the world of the Web and regulate the kind of information they are exposed to.

As human beings, we can and should decide what we want technology to do for us and not let technology rule and have full control over us. A self-confessed tech geek like me should know better that we do need technology in our daily lives to help us make it better.

That said, we still need to find the balance of what's good out there and use it to improve the quality of our lives, while taking cognizance of how dependent we are on technology and make sure we take a measured response to mitigate against it taking over our lives.

May I humbly suggest that this is the something that all of us using technology should do, so that we can manage our lives much better instead of letting technology rule the day.

Because not doing so, perhaps, would be the greatest irony of all.

Topics: Telcos, Collaboration, Emerging Tech, Mobility, BlackBerry, Tech Industry, Social Enterprise

Edwin Yapp

About Edwin Yapp

An engineer by training, Edwin first cut his teeth as a cellular radio frequency optimization engineer in one of Malaysia's largest telcos.
After more than five years, he hung up his radio engineering boots to try his hand at technology reporting at The Star, Malaysia's leading English daily, where he won several awards for Best Online Technology reporting.
He left to start his own editorial consultancy and is now a freelance journalist for several publications, including ZDNet Asia.
A self-confessed gadget geek, Edwin hopes his blog contributions will stir up deeper discussions within the Malaysian technology scene.

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  • I believe it is not so much a matter of being too depend on the technology. It is more a matter of becoming addicted to it, and there is a definite difference. Those who are simply dependent on it can walk away from it at any time, but those who are addicted, and that applies to most everyone I know, cannot simply walk away from it -- just like heroin and cocaine addicts. As in drug rehabilitation, they must be given something to take its place when those who are addicted try to give it up. And also like addicts, they refuse to admit that they are addicted in the first place -- the addicts' infamous "state of denial." Fortunately, I have been able to walk away from it -- and I am none the worse for wear without it. I occasionally check my email and surf the Web, but I no longer participate in Facebook, Twitter, chats or any of the other online social networking, nor do I leave my cell phone turned on except on rare occasions.
    bionicbub
  • Hi Edwin, good piece - balance is definitely needed! :)
    sangeetb