Thursday, January 24, 2013

Technological boundaries

I love electronic technology.

I haven’t always been an early adopter, but I am usually in the 2nd wave of technology users. I’ve had a PC since 1987, got my first cell phone (it looked like a walkie-talkie) in 1993, and an iPhone 1 in 2007. Currently I’m typing on a MacBook with an iPad next to the computer waiting for a FaceTime call.

With that background, what I’m about to confess may not make much sense. 

My confession is I’m also working very hard to be sure that technology doesn’t invade all corners of my life. I’m very conscious that without boundaries, anyone can allow technology to infiltrate every aspect of their lives, resulting in the all too familiar scene of people checking FaceBook or Twitter every time there is a lull in a conversation.

Since it’s Christmas break and my kids are out of school I’ve been picking up DVD’s at my local library. Over the past two nights we’ve watched a couple sci-fi films about technology and the future. The first was I Robot, a film about consciousness in machines – “the ghost in the machine” as the film says. What do we do when the machines decide that the best way to protect humanity is to eliminate some of us?

Last night it was The Island, a film about human cloning and what happens when “the product” realizes he or she is a person, not only a clone.

In both films technology has morphed into something evil. In I Robot, the hero, played by Will Smith, has always had skepticism about robots and the way they have infiltrated society. In The Island, the business people who make a fortune selling living “insurance policies” resort to murder to protect their position and role.

These are extreme films and we obviously aren’t at this point, but what are the signs that society is moving into this direction? Is E-learning one way? At this point we are using real human instructors and simply allowing the web to be the carrier of information from one person to the next (or class).

But what about the medium through which this information is transmitted? Mobile technology allows all of us the simplicity of checking in wherever we are. I enjoy using FourSquare and Yelp, or Twitter and Facebook, and even though my daughter says I’m too old, I have an Instagram account. As an adult with years of experience (and hopefully wisdom) I know I need to be aware of what I post and where my information is going. But what about our kids? I worry sometimes about my two teenagers who are growing up in a 24/7 switched on world. Will they have the discernment necessary to survive in this environment?

I talk to them about their posts, I caution them about putting too much information out there for others to see and potentially use against them. More than anything I worry that for them, “normal” is being able to access the web whenever and however they want. I believe this can be a good thing, as long as discernment and boundaries are in place.

So why all the doom and gloom? I simply want to be discerning. I want to enter this course with eyes open to the wonderful tools for learning that are out there. I want to glean as much as I can. At the same time, I want to come with a healthy bit of skepticism, technology won’t solve all our problems and the best way to learn is still life-on-life, person-to-person. If technology can help facilitate those connections. I’m in.