Is 21st Century Technology Diminishing Our Human Experience?

I am one of the world’s biggest proponents of the power of technology to change the world for the better. Lately, however, I have been troubled by the alarming notion that technology in our modern day lives has focused too much on providing gratification-on-demand, removing some of the wonder of the world and in the process reducing part of the chaos and mystery which makes the human experience so magical.

Now hear me out, here. I want to qualify my post by saying that the technological innovations I am critiquing have a net positive impact, but I am worried that we default to praising the utility of technological innovation, without stopping to ask if we are really working to enable the human experience that makes us who we are.

Is this a better or worse experience?

Let me tell you what I’m talking about.

No longer can we arrive at a monument or cultural destination and allow ourselves to feel the raw emotions of witnessing an example of our amazing planet; at least not without having already viewed it from multiple angles online, read reviews from strangers and professional critics alike and brushed up on its historical background.

No longer do we experience the joy of serendipity, from unearthing new bands to having chance meetings with people that could potentially blossom into true friendships; instead we rely on algorithm-driven software to define and refine our tastes and relationships.

No longer do we take a risk on the unknown, depriving ourselves of the chance of uncovering a movie, book or restaurant that blows away our expectations; instead we default to the wisdom of the crowd through user-review apps to ensure we don’t end up making the “wrong choice”.

No longer can we completely live in the present during special moments; instead we prioritize our ability to relive the moment in the future, watching entire concerts through our cell phone screen, and snapping selfies with every fish caught on a fishing trip.

No longer can we allow ourselves to become bored, that powerful emotion which pushes us to think creatively in order to escape its clutches; instead we are easily distracted by Candy Crush and Netflix binges.

The best highs are only appreciated if one understands the lows. Accomplishments provide the greatest euphoria only when one achieves them by their own brains and hands.

Human beings are explorers. We colonized Europe, we pushed out into the New World, we conquered the seas and the sky, and today we are striving to take on the depths of space. We owe it to ourselves to continue striving to discover the unknown, and to not accept only the low hanging fruit.

Our personalized world offers us filter bubbles in the name of convenience, but it comes at the expense of seeing the world in all its chaotic beauty. I am one of the guiltiest parties in defaulting to technology for an answer to all my decisions, but this post is about me making a concerted effort to step away from that system.

I believe that a world which is constantly seeking to satisfy our every whim and fancy, without allowing us to experience boredom, to miss opportunities and to reduce our exposure to bad experiences will ultimately do more damage than good.

Man needs bad experiences just like forests needs forest fires and rivers need to flood their banks. If we build digital walls to shelter our own experiences, we run the risk of a Hurricane Katrina-esque catastrophe, with our levees breached. Live a real life, and embrace the world for what it is.

Some food for thought on this Monday morning!

Until next time!



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