Sunday, February 19, 2012

Technology Moves at the Speed of Light

I am becoming convinced that technology is growing at an exponential rate.

At the risk of sounding like an old geezer, technology was in a very different place when I was in Germany in 2000-2001.  (Gosh, was that really 11 years ago?)  I remember the big thing then was to have an email address and to use AOL Instant Messenger.  The camera I had was from Kodak and was APS.  Rather than having the film that you had to set up in the camera it was all internal, and you dropped off a small roll of film to get developed.  In terms of communication, things were still pretty primative compared to today's standards.  The main ways I communicated with my family was writing letters, an occasional email, and calling home once a month.

In college I felt like I was a bit behind the ball with technology.  Sure, I signed up for Facebook when it first came out.  I didn't get my first laptop until I finished grad school in 2006, and I had a prepay cell phone for my first few years of college mostly to use just for emergencies.  I kept a blog on Livejournal for a few years, but unfortunately I wasn't able to use it to document my travels before I got it.  Cameras became more advanced, and I had a digital camera to take pictures.

Now it's 2012, and technology has come a long way.  Skype lets people make video calls to see each other.  You can also make international phone calls for cheaper than Skype with Google Voice.  Blogs have become a part of mainstream culture, and cell phones now make phone calls, send text messages, and connect to the internet.  Wifi connections have become standard in coffee shops, and are even available in airplanes, trains, and some subway stations.

After having felt a bit behind, I feel like I've caught up a bit.  I have a Kindle Fire and can read books for pleasure or to kill free time between classes or when traveling.  My new laptop has an integrated webcam, meaning that I can now video chat with family and friends.  I'm actually typing this update while on an Amtrak train from Los Angeles to Anaheim to visit some friends.  My camera is nice enough to take pictures and even record some basic video, and it suits my needs.

I don't have a smart phone, and I really don't want to get one.  I just don't feel like paying extra money every month to be able to access the internet on a phone.  I mean, it would be nice.  Between a laptop that I can carry with me and my Kindle Fire, I think that that will be connected enough to suit my taste.

I told myself that I would use free time (like this time on the train) to prepare documents, search for resources for teaching, and do productive things.  Yet I find myself on Facebook, playing Angry Birds, and doing not so productive things.

This leaves me wondering a few questions.  Is technology really that good for us if we don't use it to be productive?  Is it a good thing to feel like we're dependent on the internet, email, and Facebook?  Has technology becoming a part of our daily life improved or worsened our relationships with people and the amount of time we spend with people face to face?

I find a mix of yes and no with these questions.  I don't have time to elaborate now, as I have reached my stop at Anaheim.

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