A Cyborg’s Lament

With tech we no longer rely on ourselves, we are no longer the authorities

Topics

Virtue

What is the point of all this technology? What purpose does a Bluetooth refrigerator serve? How many apps can one person possibly need? Can you really taste the difference when burgers are grilled on a WIFI-enabled grill?

On a recent trip with my mother to a new office building, I decided to not use my phone for directions. Though driving, I made a conscious decision to rely on my mother, who has an abnormally precise recall for street names and intersections. Despite her strengths, we had to quickly decide whether or not to turn left or right on our destination street. The 500 block was marked on the right, was the 400 block on the left? Or was it the 600 block?

In those few seconds during which we had to decide which way to turn, panic set in, and regret. Why hadn’t I used my phone? Why didn’t I have my navigation app running in the background? How could I let things get so out of control? Obviously, my rapid descent into total anxiety was for naught, as we turned left and reached our destination in a matter of seconds.

Yet, I couldn’t get over that momentary feeling of helplessness. I had felt totally out of control, unable to make a decision unaided. How could I regain control? How could my confidence be restored? Whose counsel was I seeking? My cell phone’s, of course.

And this is the problem. Technology has invaded our lives, every aspect touched and tainted by its numbing blue glow. Can’t remember that phone number? Check your contacts. Need directions? Ask your phone, and don’t forget to turn on your location. What’s the zip code for Chicago, IL? USPS has an app for that, and for calculating postage. What’s that new restaurant called? Google it, check the hours, the menu, reviews, and place an order: now!

And so, we are constantly tethered to our devices; not just for entertainment, diversion, or the latest streaming series. We are slowly becoming reliant on them for daily activities and functions. How do I find this new location? How do I spell that word? How do I remember his phone number? You can’t; not without your handy device, your link to the world wide web.

A by-product of this reliance on the all-knowing authority of technology is fear. We’re slowly becoming more and more afraid: Afraid to hazard a guess, turn left or right? Afraid to be wrong. Afraid to show weakness. And the only way to prevent such a catastrophe as infallibility is to turn to the device, defer to the phone, allow technology to lead the way. Our knowledge, experiences, and memory are suddenly more than fallible, they are inherently flawed. The only way to know anything for certain is to look it up. We no longer rely on ourselves, we are no longer the authorities. Why bother to commit anything to memory since it pales in comparison to the ever-ready, humming search engines?

As a result, we lose so much more than the impulse to memorize or recall information. When we lose the ability to be fallible, we lose touch with the world. In refusing to get lost in the world, we close ourselves off to new places. We shut ourselves off to new people when we can’t pull over and ask someone. When in unfamiliar territory, our senses are piqued and situational awareness is at an all-time high. But when the coordinates are plugged in the phone, there is no need to notice, to see the streets or your neighbor passing you by.

Technology is the neat and clean solution to the messiness of life. With it there is no need to get lost, to call the wrong number, or stand outside a business that is closed for the day. But it is a narrow scope, through which the outside world is blurred. And what can be more fearsome than losing touch with this incredible world? Perhaps losing touch with the sight of our own weakness.

 

Magdalena Moreno is a wife, mother of four, and Assistant Managing Editor for the NOR: opening mail, answering the phones and sending out renewals -- and now blogging, too!

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