What will you do today?
Chances are you will surf, scroll, type, play, pause, rewind, fast forward, scrub, record, save, bookmark, click, tap, drag, drop, open, close, delete, sleep and maybe recover.
We are choice-makers. We are addicted to choices. We interface with digital laptops, desktops, smart phones, game consoles, dashboards, vending machines, gas pumps, ATM machines, electronic book readers, thermostats, coffee makers, audio phone menus, ovens, microwaves and sleep numbers.
Our ancestors made no fewer choices. They were just different ones, perhaps with more physical requirements. In processing information, an early human walked, scanned, stooped, reached, gathered, stored, searched, chopped, sorted, cleaned, considered, hunted, ran, climbed, threw, chased, cooked, and slept.
Today, we have what we call machines to help us with these tasks. Some people worry that it is not in our best interest as a species, to be so obsessed with these machines. They believe our bodies are becoming physically weak and are devolving from under-use. They say we are becoming spiritually weak because of our fascination with the symbols found on these machines.
It is commonly accepted that we are in an age of information overload. We debate whether multitasking is fragmenting our minds. We worry that our kids will forget how to read books, play catch or go fishing.
These debates feed our fears. But why do we fear the very things that we love? We all admit the miraculous power these machines have. Through these devices we heat in winter, cool in summer, cook food, freeze food, fly, drive, send words and images around the globe at the speed of light.
Yet, with all these things helping us through our everyday existence, we complain of too much stress in our lives. Could it be that much of this stress is caused by fear that we are somehow destroying ourselves with all these comforts; that they are poisoning us from the inside as well as from the outside.
We would do better to realize that technologies are not things dropped on us by a hostile alien race in order to ensure our slow and painful doom. We invented them. We used our imaginations to create things that make our lives easier, or more fun, more beautiful, safer, or more exciting.
Everything you see around you that you consider to be man-made comes from nature. Everything is organic. Our machines are just sand, wood, stone, petroleum. These natural elements are simply melted with fire and poured into forms that we imagine. We recombine nature to create something new just as a plant does when it synthesizes sunlight. Machines are conceived in imagination and manifest in our natural surroundings.
You could argue that nothing exists which is not “natural” and you would be right; but this doesn’t mean nothing is harmful to life. Life requires death in order to exist at all. They are both natural parts of what it means to “be”. By embracing both we can find peace.
So it is that fear and stress are natural too. They serve a purpose. They are like water, air and energy. There is never any more of it or less of it in our world. It just gets spread around differently as we interact and recreate our environment.
What if we embraced technology as a natural part of our evolution? Everything: the traffic jams, the information overload, the blaring TVs, radios, blinking menu screens. What if we just accepted this as a fish accepts the water. Let it flow through our minds like water through gills, retain the nutritious stuff, filter the rest. Do you think that would help reduce the stress many of us feel about the pace of this new world; or do you think that is a too simplistic a solution?
What do you imagine our ancestors would think of this modern world we have created if they were transported somehow into the present? I have a hunch they would think our machines sprang up from the earth as gifts from the Great Spirit; and they would give thanks.
And they would be right.