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Growth is NOT Optional

We are all of us children of technology. For good or for not, we utilize technology in our everyday lives, whether we realize it or not. We have become dependent on it in nearly every aspect of our lives.

This hit home for me the other day when my laptop crashed and I spent much of the day re-installing Windows and trying to restore several files which I hadn’t backed up recently – whenever I am involved in a computer crash, it always seems to occur when I’ve been lazy and haven’t backed up in awhile. It is a particular bother when I am trying to get caught up and ahead for my upcoming trip.

Still, it gives me pause to think about how much technology surrounds me, even in subtle ways. Obviously, most of you reading this have at least a passing familiarity with computers; at present this is only available on Facebook, MySpace and my own blogsite Thank Blog It’s Friday. The Internet gives you access to insights and thoughts you never had before, and allows people from all sorts of cultures to reach out and connect. It still amazes me that I have friends – close friends – in Malaysia, France, England, Sweden, Germany, the Philippines, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Austria, Spain, Italy, Canada, Egypt, Dubai, Hong Kong and throughout North America, people I’d never have met without the aid of America Online, Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites. Our world has truly become smaller.

When I think of things I take for granted (and certainly things my son takes for granted) like microwaves, cell phones, GPS devices and the International Space Station, I think often of my grandmother who was born while World War I was raging and who passed away only a few years ago. She lived through a Depression, a Second World War and a moon landing. What must she have thought about what the world has become? I wonder what I’ll be thinking about it in 2035 when I’m 75 years old. I wonder if I’ll be able to adjust to the technologies of the time.

There are always luddites of course. My Godmother, one of the sweetest, kindest and most admirable women I’ve ever known, keeps technology at arm’s length. She doesn’t even possess an answering machine, let alone a cell phone and I’m relatively certain she doesn’t possess a computer. She manages to live a rich, full life without these things, spending time painting, traveling and giving of her time to charitable causes. I sometimes wonder if our lives wouldn’t be fuller if we didn’t spend so much time slack-jawed in front of our computer screens or 3G phones.

The problem with technology making our lives easier is that in many ways, it makes us softer. We can achieve things without having to work too hard for them, which is a dangerous attitude to have. Why bother learning how to cook when you can just nuke a frozen dinner in your microwave? After all, it’s faster and more convenient and gives us more time to….what?

What are we really using all this extra time these conveniences give us for? Well, studies show that we’re spending more time at work, those of us who have jobs that is. The average workday is creeping over the 8-hour threshold as companies continue to downsize, expecting their remaining workforce to pick up the slack. We are terrified of being the next on the chopping block so we do whatever it takes, work longer hours until of course we’re let go anyway when our jobs are sent to a country where the workforce is paid pennies on the dollar.

We’re also spending a lot of our time on the Internet. However, most of us aren’t really using it as a tool but as a toy. We use it to socialize, play games, buy crap we don’t need, watch videos and keep up with celebrity gossip. Few of us use it to stay informed, learn new skills or research information. As a society, we’re becoming dangerously ignorant and the true shame of it is that we have the greatest educational tool in human history right at our fingertips, but we’d much rather type in the addresses for YouTube and Pogo than CNN and Wikipedia.

Still, I am in awe of our future. One of the things I look forward to most about my upcoming trip to Expo 2010 in Shanghai is to see the technology that will become part of my everyday life in the next decade; new two-seat cars that are zero-carbon emitting and run on batteries that are easily charged by any household outlet, for example.  A new sort of paint that absorbs smog, for another. Floorboards that create electric energy every time you step on them for another.

The world is taking our ecological crisis seriously. Renewable and sustainable technology seems to be the key, as our resources dwindle and our population grows. Technology will allow us to feed more of us than ever before, deliver clean drinking water where it is needed, and allow us to explore places we have never been. Indeed, we stand on the cusp of the greatest era in human history.

However, we also stand on a great precipice at the bottom of which lies the ruin of mankind. Technology gives all of us great power, more than the common man has ever possessed, but as a wiser man than I once said, with great power comes great responsibility. We owe succeeding generations a future better than the one that was given us. We owe it to our children to push them to succeed, to inspire them to learn and grow. The easiest way to do that is lead by example. It is incumbent upon us to learn and grow ourselves. Instead of spending hours swapping gifts in Mafia Wars, let’s spend time reading books, learning new skills and hobbies, adding insights from sources we never considered before. Join discussions about the political and social issues of the day; be an expert at something.

Much of our reluctance to do this is based on our own fear that we don’t have the brain power to do it. This is nonsense. We have dumbed ourselves down to the point where we feel powerless and stupid, but it just isn’t so. We all have the abilities to use these tools at our disposal to learn.

Think about it. Even dogs can be taught. If your dog can learn to fetch, roll over or respond to a vocal command, think of what a human can do. Think of what you can do. Stop microwaving your dinner and learn a new recipe. Read a book about a subject that interests you, be it history, sports, philosophy, psychology, science, heck, read a novel by Sue Grafton, Stephen King or John Grisham. Even Jackie Collins has something worthwhile to say.

Our world can be astonishing and beautiful, but only if we choose to see it that way. Think of our world as dreary, hard and mean and the world is dreary, hard and mean. Change your outlook and your circumstances will begin to change also, but only if you’re willing to do the work to change them. Embrace change and cast your fear of it aside; it’s easy to stay in the rut we’re in but it is inevitably fatal. When we stop growing, we start to die. When we stop growing as a species, our species will wither and fade into dust. Exercise your curiosity. Learn something new. Demand better of your life and yourself. Add your voice to the chorus and start singing at the top of your lungs. The world will be a better place for it and your grandchildren will thank you, even if you sound like a scalded cat. After all, even scalded cats sound beautiful if you listen to them carefully.


One Response

  1. Hey, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, anyway cool blog, I bookmarked you. 🙂

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