Does technology create more problems than it solves?
In how many ways are people connected to the world? Think about any item that would allow you to communicate to any other person in this room. With the internet, email, instant messaging and mobile phones we have increased tenfold our ways to keep in touch and we can communicate with more people, more often, and more easily. But by communicating through technology, are we communicating less effectively?
This issue of ineffective communication is ever present in working life too. Despite spending fortunes on internal communications, major companies are still fighting our techno-obsessed culture. When members of staff persist in emailing a colleague who sits two seats away, we lose the chance to smile at each other and settle for email with a smiley face instead. So when we eventually have to talk to others face to face we tend to not include words which would be considered ‘too long’ to type. I have even heard shortened words such as LOL used in real conversation! Would it take a longer amount of time just to laugh out loud instead?
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Another argument is that this technological language is improving our creativity or even language as a whole. The advocates of this view are sadly mistaken. Creative as it may be, butchering and distorting language will never result in improving it. Some parts may even be forgotten – such as the all important aspect of grammar – which is brilliantly described in the joke about a panda that enters a restaurant, orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. The reason: according to the wildlife manual that he carries he is supposed to behave this way: a panda “eats, shoots and leaves.” This emphasizes the power of grammar in everyday speech, and how essential it is to any language, not necessarily English.
Technology has always been stereotyped as being part of a ‘younger generation’ – with older people not wanting to, or not knowing how to use it. Not so with the use of mobile phones becoming more popular with older age groups. Another little known fact is that there are more mobile phones than people now in the UK. Are we a nation more reliant on virtual communication, versus the needs of physical human beings – to be talked to naturally?
One point can be made that language is simply a means of communicating thought. The quicker one can communicate their precise thought, the better. Therefore, if someone can communicate exactly what they’re thinking with a single grunt as apposed to a whole paragraph, wouldn’t a grunt be a better form of communication? Nonetheless, a single grunt wouldn’t do justice, especially in an electronic medium. In person, one can pick up on facial expressions, body languages, and noted pauses in speaking. But in written form, every care must be taken to be very precise, as one cannot read another’s facial features, pick up on pauses without punctuation, or tell by the tone of voice. Most of what one is saying is not derived from what is said, but how it is said, hence the need for a solid understanding and use of the written language.
Onto more of a serious point, how far do you think away we are from having a ‘Big Brother’ situation with technology? As a surveillance society, we are caught on CCTV almost 300 times every day, what would happen if this information was somehow released to a malicious group? Almost constantly we hear about breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence and nanotechnology. Robots so small, they can actually repair arteries and veins from the inside. Millions of transistors stacked onto miniature computer chips. We, on a global scale are becoming increasingly reliant on the technology we have created. Sure, we could just pull out the plug, but how long could you last without a computer or a mobile phone?
It is true that we as human beings are creatures of habit. We create technology to improve, modify or better our current lifestyles. It starts to become an integral part of us, and our lives start revolving around that current technology. As a result technology starts shaping our lives. It changes the way we think, work, talk and write. But it also opens our eyes to many other possibilities. So do we further technology or does it further itself, and would this process be self sustaining?
Technology has also improved our lives beyond recognition. Suppose that you had come home to find that your house was on fire – and you didn’t have a telephone to make a 999 call. These are the small thing that we take for granted – but without which there would be dire consequences.
We can now call relatives all over the world – a quick email to send important news; instant messaging; web cam chats. All of these are only possible due to advances in technology. So is the recent trend in simplifying words and communicating solely through computers just a trend?
My guess would be yes. However advanced technology may get, it will never replace face to face conversation, and one of the main reasons for this would be emotion. Emotion is a key part in communication, how do we know when someone is angry or upset? The tone and cadence of their voice tells us this. This can never be accurately replicated in text – sarcasm is another element that is near impossible to simulate. Losing this would cut a huge hole in the future of all spoken languages.
In all I think the benefits of technology will outweigh the drawbacks of using such services. Where would we be if we didn’t have cars, computers or even televisions? Although if we continue to simplify English to bare extremes we may end up with a language that is completely different to the one we have today.