ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 42

Invasion of space

I suppose it is safe to assume that most of us – at least most of those who read the Sunday Times – are in sync with the internet browsing, mobile phone using and email receiving and forwarding demographic. Therefore most of us are constantly up-to-date about the latest mobile phones and the coolest websites.

The way yesterday's computers are made redundant tomorrow – which is only a mild exaggeration – is a conspicuous phenomenon that we have come to take for granted. The social impact of technology however is not so apparent.

Anyone who has searched for a pair of spectacles while wearing them (is this a common behavioural trait, or is it just me?) could relate to the fact that we often fail to see the things that are closest to us. Those of us who grew up with the TV often fail to realise that even that is a relatively new technology that is only a couple of generations old.

In fact, the TV has overturned millions of years of social and cultural evolution almost in the blink of an eye, by invading our personal and family space and replacing human conversations with an obsessive staring ritual that we all know only too well. But thanks to our ability to adapt at an amazing pace, we barely even notice such dramatic changes – but at what cost?

The computer network has all the markings of the next revolutionary step in technology that will transform our lives and lifestyles. As marketing departments of powerful organizations push this technology into our lives at a blinding rate, we embrace it for reasons ranging from personal convenience to productivity gains, heightened entertainment and communication.

A highly disproportionate amount of time and effort – in its scarcity – is dedicated in terms of research and public discourse and awareness is spent on understanding the social impacts of technology.

Our overall failure to understand the place and influence of technology in our lives has come at a significant social and personal cost.

We as humans still retain most of our primeval instincts and behaviours, but society and culture has also evolved slowly over time to displace and replace some of our behavioural patterns. As recently as five centuries ago, religion was a significant driving force behind our cultural and social evolution, but the industrial revolution has tipped the scales where economics have now become the most influential force behind our cultural progress.

Even though all these factors are still related to each other, technology has begun to expand its influence on culture just as much as religion and economics.

These three cultural forces are more prevalent in countries such as our own, where religion has not lost its relevance and grip on society – unlike in the West where economic factors together with technology, eclipse religious influences.

Rather than just blindly trying to keep up with the pace of technology, we will also open up a discussion to understand how technology is transforming our society and influencing our lives. Feel free to write in with your views, ideas and comments to:

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.