Technology addiction is real and permeates every aspect of our society.
Whether it’s continually checking notifications, binge watching a television series, or curating your online identity through a string of food pics and selfies, there has never been a time in human history where individuals are so deeply focused on these “tools” not as a means to living life but as a substitute for life in itself.
I am by no means a technophobe. I grew up steeped in video game culture, spent countless hours on a Nintendo or my family’s Apple IIe playing and experimenting with every aspect of the technology at the time. I was a computer geek from a very early age, built my first PC at around age 12, went to LAN parties on the weekends in high school, created counter strike tournaments in the dorms, cracked open World of Warcraft a few days after it came out. Somewhere along the way I realized that these skills in technology could provide me with a means for a successful career. I tried flash design, web development, even IT management but eventually settled on being an “interaction designer”.
This evolution allowed me to carefully understand and separate myself from the games and software I used so passionately in my youth. I was now strategizing how to build these products rather than being a casual user of them. I engrossed myself in the marketing and business ideology that was behind each of those technological innovations that I was so eager to see happen. This understanding of the motivations behind building some of the greatest advances of technology are exactly what have made me recently grow very skeptical and cautious about new technology usage and adoption.
When I was young I wanted the world to be like the science fiction stories I read by nightlight with my head tucked in under the covers. I dreamed of an Enders game reality, where kids were focused on a path to becoming the next elite “gamers”, encouraged (or forced) to be implanted with technology from a young age which would monitor and assess their every move.
Now as an adult I am fearful that this is what we are setting up the future to be. It might not be creating troops of children to fight an alien war, but it is a molding of the mind to embrace an obsession with technology as a common or even necessary component to being human.
The products that I help to envision and build will not by themselves bring about this change. But I am part of the industry that prides itself more on revenue generation than on providing and protecting valuable resources for future generations.
I just read that the top 5 tech companies raked in over $1 trillion dollars in 2017. That money is likely to go back into building new products for current and future generations to use and likely to become addicted to. How could that money be spent to better provide for the future of society?
What should we do as designers and developers of innovative digital products to help ensure that our work helps to make the world more liveable? How are we going to invest in our future in a way that prioritizes human understanding and interpersonal interaction over the usage of “things”?
Please comment to let me know your thoughts or to tell me that I’m just being crazy.