Social interaction is dying. Long live social media!

I’ve had it with smartphones, social media, and the societal ignorance it promotes.  Facebook, texting, BBM and so forth are contributing to the downfall of a socially fluent society.  I would love to pin it on a certain younger generation, but I can’t.  My generation is just as much to blame for this rampant devolution into isolation as any other.  We sit around checking our smartphones like our existence depends on it.  We could all disappear if we didn’t update our status every 3 hours, or tweet about seeing a bottle cap in the middle of the road.  It’s worse than a narcotic addiction sometimes.

I have been out for the evening with friends, having a jolly time when one of my companions goes into a panic because their phone is about to die.  Now if they had been worried about the babysitter, an elderly or sick relative I’d have understood, but they were in a panic because they couldn’t finish their game of candy crush (or some such nonsense).

A few years ago, before the advent of the iPhone, I would be able to go out the local pub on my own and be guaranteed a conversation with one, or many different people.  These establishments promoted social interaction.  It was how ideas were exchanged, discussed, and yes sometimes disagreed upon.  The establishment would be buzzing with laughter and raised voices, and these sounds most times louder than any music or a sports event on the television perched high above our heads.

Now, I can go into that same pub and the music seems too loud.  Conversations are nonexistent.  The only laughter I hear is coming from the TV.  I look around at the packed tables and spy people with their heads down, leaning over their favourite application (I hate the word “app”), rather than engaging with their compatriots.  It’s truly a sad state of affairs; our attentions are so easily swayed by little LED’s.  I liken the ability of swiping our fingers over a screen to kindergarten children working on their finger paintings.  Has that what great technological advancement has gotten us?  Intellectual regression?  I wish I knew.

We have replaced face-to-face communication with electronic screens.  We type out our conversations rather than orally converse about our lives now.  When we finally give in and actually agree to meet in public, our friends are genuinely caught by surprise by any physical changes we may have gone through.  Now this would be acceptable if your friends lived far, far away, but when they are live on the next block in your neighbourhood, well you do the math.

The other part of this “technological revolution” has been the removal of our situational awareness.  People seem to be completely oblivious of their surroundings when their communicator vibrates.  I was sitting in a common area at school this week, quietly working and observing my surroundings when a class change happened.  Students shuffled by in a steady stream heading towards the stairs.  All of a sudden a guy came to a dead stop at the top of the stairs, reached into his pocket to pull his phone out, and started typing madly.  He was completely oblivious to the traffic jam he had caused, and didn’t seem to care.  He put his phone away and carried on.  Ignorance is bliss, and he seemed to be a pretty happy guy.

Facebook, twitter, tumblr etc can’t hold a candle to face-to-face, in the flesh conversation.  If we don’t recapture this fundamental requirement of interpersonal communications we are heading towards a life of isolation and self imposed loneliness.  In all fairness, I do have social media accounts, however I do not use them to share my life or converse with my friends.  I use them to follow news stories and other hobbies that interest me.  If my friends want to talk or share something with me, they either call, meet me for coffee, go for a walk, or just come sit on my front step and talk.

Till next week
A Clockwork Techie

History and the Zebedee

Who remembers high school history?   Reading about those events that happened at some geographical location a long time ago.  Trying to picture where a great battle happened, or the true size of an old fort or other monument built hundreds of years ago.  I was a visual learner, and  words in books just couldn’t paint the picture that I needed to learn about these great events in our history.  What if there was a way to bring those places to life, in the here and now?  Something that let the student’s experience first hand the size and scope of historical places throughout the world.  This is what I could see being done with Zebedee 3D mapping tool.

The Zebedee 3D mapping tool is advancement in compact, portable 3D mapping.  Up until this point most 3D mapping used large, stationary, tripod mounted devices that were left alone to scan structures one piece at a time.  It was very time intensive and post processing was computationally heavy.  With the Zebedee, one person can walk in and around any structure with little more than a back pack a hand-held device. The company lists applications that they feel are well suited for this device including, but not exclusive to manufacturing, forestry, mining, first responders, security and cultural heritage.  I believe that education could be added to that list as well.

For example, Csiro, the company that developed the Zebedee, mapped the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  The final 3D map includes an interior and exterior and is completely interactive, meaning you can do a virtual walkabout of the tower without ever leaving the classroom.

Scan of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Another thought of mine was to use the technology to educate travellers of possible physical restrictions they may face when abroad.  Please let me explain.  A few years ago I took a month-long vacation in Ireland.  I backpacked around the country looking at different sites of interest with the intent of eventually visiting Newgrange in County Meath.  Newgrange is a prehistoric passage tomb that was excavated and opened to tourists.  Reading the literature that was available made me feel that entering the tomb to explore was going to be good experience, however that idea quickly disappeared.  After I entered the tunnel narrowed quickly and I found myself in a panic.  It was at that moment that I realized that I might be a little claustrophobic.  I feel that if I had been able to get access to, and view a virtual, to scale digital model of the tunnels I may have been able to avoid this dark part of my history.

I think that the Zebedee 3D mapping tool could be a great advancement in educational tools. Hopefully Csiro and other educational companies can get together to build a virtual library of historical places and share them with the world.

Last week I mentioned that I was going to give an opinion on a thermometer patch developed by a group of international scientists.  At first blush my gut reaction was that this tech would eventually be corrupted for nefarious purposes, however my position has softened.  Not enough to say that it will be a good technology but enough to let it go, for now.

Till next week,
A Clockwork Techie

p.s. I know nothing beats seeing historical locations in real life.  However with class sizes in the public school system the way they are,  costs to take all the students around the world would be insurmountable.

Technology is tearing my life apart

Living in the first world, I’ve become a beast of burden to a technological enslaver.  Technology has become ubiquitous in my daily life.  I am to blame for this state of being since I have openly invited it in to my daily grind.  My morning coffee, taking the bus to school, and even verifying some information for this blog, it all has some basis in modern technology.  I have recently become frighteningly aware that I am living in a self-imposed cage made of circuits and resistors and I need to start looking for a way out.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Technology has always played a large roll in my happiness and intellectual growth during the first four decades of my life.  However, I’ve noticed a growing trend to isolate myself from life outside my home.  After some careful thought and consideration I’ve come to one conclusion.  Technology is evil.

I am not saying we live in a Tyler Durden type of dystopia where humanity has to be forced back to square one.   We do not need to take up arms against our oppressor and fight for our freedom.  How could we turn back the hands of time without erasing all knowledge?  We can’t erase our minds en masse (although that would be a pretty evil use of technology).  Even without our knowledge of our existing technology, the human race would find a way to create tools and persevere.  In essence, create a new line of technology.

With evil technology in mind, I am going to start looking at anything new that comes across my desk with some skepticism.  I will start asking myself  “Do I really need this?  Will I use it for good or evil?”  I know that taking such a black and white approach is a bit limiting however I am trying to use these questions to help me slow down and redefine my easy-going attitude to technology adoption.

So let’s get to the crux of this blog.  Here’s what I propose.  Every week I will look at one or two pieces of modern technology, do a simple analysis based on my own thoughts and ideas, and determine whether they’d do more harm or good to my life. This will be difficult for me since I have such a great love of tech and how it ticks.

My first comparison will begin next week when I look at the Zebedee 3D Mapping tool and a new tattoo-like skin thermometer.  When you have a moment, take a look at the links and formulate your own opinion on possible uses for daily life.  Check back next week to read my view on these items, and to voice you comments.

Please take into account these are my opinions and not necessarily a true representation of the technologies capabilities and uses.  I in no way endorse the use of any of the items I have mentioned.

Till next week,
A Clockwork Techie