Technology as a means of avoiding communication

April 30, 2015

I don’t want to perpetuate the stereotype of engineers as introverted geeks, but a lot of inventions lately seem to be ways to avoid talking to people.

It may not be the actual goal of the inventions, but frequently a side-effect of progress is that we have less need to talk to strangers, less need of human interaction.

Google maps on our smartphones mean we don’t need to ask directions.
Self-checkout machines mean we don’t need to talk to cashiers.
The supermarket itself removes the need to ask a shopkeeper to get items from shelves.
ATMs mean we don’t need to go into banks, let alone talk to the people who work there.
The iPod, and before that the Walkman, is a means of isolating ourselves from the rest of the world.

While I’d be loath to include it with the rest of that list and call it progress, surely the whole point of the selfie stick is that you don’t need to ask someone else to take a picture of you and your friends.

Even where we do still need to communicate with strangers, our human interactions are frequently prescribed by their relation to a technological interaction. The awkward wait as customer and vendor wait for a credit card transaction to be approved, or while our train or plane tickets are checked, feels like a weird evolutionary appendix between the olden days where humans helped us, and the future where the machines will do everything.

There must be countless other examples, and there are probably sci-fi films depicting a dystopian future where nobody talks to each other.

I’m not really sure what my point is here - maybe just that we should be trying to get away from screen-based thinking and getting out into the “real world” a bit more.

And now I’ve got this awful song in my head, and a problem shared is a problem halved: