Night-time here in Saigon, and the apartment is awash with technology: air conditioning unit purring above, iPod playing, latop bedazzling me with twittersphere chat, skype, and instant access to the views, and counterviews, of billions of fellow humans.
In my first job after returning from an even more isolated, yet inspiring, corner of Uganda in 1997, I worked in a slightly ‘outback’ office in Acton (West London) with twenty other people. We had no mobile phones to start with, and a mere four to five shared computers.
These were times when securing advertising through faxing was all the rage – in itself a flawed initiative on several fronts when you think about it, as no one ever read the adverts, and no one recycled the paper.
Sure, this ain’t all that long ago in the grand scheme of things and, in comparison to now, was following on the foot-steps of a practically ‘dark-age’ era of technology (and so brilliantly captured in this recent UK compilation of 70s and 80s nostalgic memorabillia – which I simply had to upload for posterity’s sake):
An era in which drink-driving without seat-belts was mainstream, and the epitome of hip and cool was owning an Atari computer and playing Pac-Man.
An era in which I was also either too young or too careless to appreciate just what perfect joy there was to be had making your life revolve around a much more “low-tech” existence. Where buying vinyl records, writing letters, and cataloguing your VHS tape collection with your red plastic sticker tape gun, were wholesome and time-consuming ways to fill your weekends.
Time, these days, feels like the most precise commodity we have. Young and old, there is now so much at our finger-tips to pull on our attention. The connectivity potential the world over, and the faith that we are putting into technological solutions to some of the world’s problems, is at once both inspiring and daunting.
There are advancements to get excited about (watches designed to monitor your health) and advancements that will curb our free-will as individuals (Tesco’s Big Brother database of “intel” on all its customers).
To view the surface of the planet Mars from your armchair. To watch a man bungee jump from 27 miles up in space. To type words into a latop in Saigon, and have them read on another continent (ok, my guard is completely down here, I am still spooked by some of the most simple of techy things!) All these things. All that we can now do – which was deemed unimaginable even ten years ago – will pale into insignificace within an even shorter span of time in the years to come.
The pace, the advancement, will only quicken. Pinpoint accurancy in all that matters, technologically speaking, will continue to be refined and replicated.
I wonder what simplicities my daughters will reflect on when they are my age? What trivialities will they remember experiencing as children?
“Remember when we used to use mobile phones?” they may well muse, “seems so odd that everyone used to carry one of those around, at the same time as having to carry wallets and purses and money.” Yet, a cash-less society in 10 years’ time is not such an absurd concept.
I fall more on the side of being excited, as opposed to daunted, by what the world will look like in the future – provided human connections, conversation, music, sport, literature, the arts, laughter, love, and other instinctive emotions, remain the cornerstones.
Those moments we all cherish, derived from such things, can be enhanced by technology. And they can also be hindered.
Leaving the last word on this – via the genius invention of youtube – to these two gentleman. A demonstration, for those who will humour me, of how to make a moment count, using one of my favourite ‘cornerstones’…try 36 mins 30 secs in, if you only have time for one song…