Saturday, February 25, 2006

gb #2 the negative impacts of cellular technology on human behavior

(It’s 7am and you're driving to work. Who are you calling?)

Initial notes: The point of this post is not to fairly balance the pros and cons of cell phone use. Also, I understand that cell phones are tools and that humans decide how to use tools. I believe the coming global peak in oil production will not necessarily knock out mobile communication. In fact I can envision a world of the future where people talk to each other on cellular phones not from their cars but from on horseback. I was endangered just this past week by someone who thought safely merging onto a highway was less important than making a call. I would not have felt nearly as threatened had this man been riding a horse. Relocalization is coming whether we like it or not. Relocalization is all about scale. The ultimate in local is to do it yourself. Cellular technology fosters behavior contrary to this practice. Having said that here is the revision of a thought I have had once or twice

The widespread use of mobile communication devices has negatively affected the human race in three distinct ways. It has further destroyed the present tense by decreasing time spent in the moment, it has systematically reduced self-reliance, and has decreased efficient in the area of time management.

All spaces can be categorized as either destination spaces or circulation spaces. Destination spaces are defined as places where actives of human interest occur. Circulation spaces are the areas in between destination spaces that serve as transit corridors between them. Your kitchen where you cook and your bedroom where you sleep are destination spaces. The hall that connects them is a circulation space. Circulation can be enjoyed but the point is always to get somewhere you are not. The goal is to be somewhere else in the future. Cell phone use further removes the focus of the present from our ever-increasing amount of time spent circulating. The effect of cellular phones on destination spaces is even more dramatic as it removes the person from their intended task, be it cooking or sleeping, and transports them to an alternative reality if only for a brief time. Repeated transports diminish the capacity for the individual to focus and enjoy the task at hand. As I once listened to my mother on her cell phone chatter on about something my sister could have told her later that night at dinner, I realized she was missing a beautiful sunset as well as the opportunity to talk to her son in person.

Large emergencies are often mitigated by someone’s ability to call for help. Cell phones increase the ability of an individual to call louder and further for assistance. Smaller cries however are often the tools by which we learn to negotiate the unpredictable world in which we live. Without exposure to these trials, people lose the opportunities they need to learn skills that will come in handy in the future when other problems arise. Reliance on moblie phones therefore can lead to a reduction in general competence in an ever increasing population of specialists. Our world is still far too random to rely too heavily on others for everything. A peak in oil production will increase volatility and further necessitate the ability to think fast and solve problems in person. Someone once told me I wouldn’t feel this way if I had ever called the authorities from the scene of an emergency. I responded that I once suppressed a neighbor’s apartment fire with only an extinguisher. There were plenty of people with cell phones calling for assistance. What was equally important though was the knowledge of what to do and the willingness to do in the moment.

The idea that cell phones increase time efficiently is a myth perpetuated by specific situations that do not parallel an individual's overall use of time. In certain circumstances, time is saved by the ability to call for directions or add to a grocery list but what is left unexamined is the overall effect this ability has on the time management skills of those who rely heavily on this capability. People dependent on cell phones begin to give less consideration to those details that allow them to operate in a smooth and efficient manner. The ability to talk with virtually anyone at virtually any time causes individuals not to consider prudent planning. This leads to more delays that would have been eliminated through thoughtful planning. The occasional delay that taught someone to be prudent with his or her use of time is eliminated. Time lost to subsequent delays caused by reliance on this ability occurs in small increments but when totaled up, exceeds the amount of time saved by cell phones. Net loss of time occurs.

Cellular technology has reduced overall focus on life in the moment. It has diluted our ability to do for ourselves and has replaced effective time management with constant, chaotic communication.

On a personal note, I will get a cell phone. I am waiting for one that can call, photography, video, broadcast radio, play recorded music, access the internet, allow me to send and receive emails and has a range of more than 95% of my daily geography. An alarm, sweet ring tones and the ability to make a mean omelet should go without saying.

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