Is technology, which is growing at an enormous speed, destroying our psychology, our wisdom, and our relationships? I ask this question because of what I witnessed on my trip to Thailand in January 2014. I am not the first to ask this question. In fact, Albert Einstein was much more blunt many years ago when he said “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots”. Let’s explore this possibility.
My partner Anne and I were staying in a beautifully landscaped hotel on a perfect beach in Thailand. The hotel had 16 acres of pure beauty. There were a variety of trees, plants, animals, lakes, sounds, and smells. Everywhere we walked had magnificence written all over it. Anne and I cherished every moment of our stay. We discovered that our fellow guests all took to arming themselves with an array of I phones, I pads, lap tops, computers, and video and music machines. These guests carried the high tech tools everywhere. We found them in all the hotel restaurants, morning, noon and night. We found them at the pool, at the beach, in the lobby, at the playground, in the taxi shuttles, on excursions, on the pathways around the hotel. Simply everywhere. It was obvious that people were addicted to their high tech tools.
The enormity of the addiction finally hit us one evening just before dusk. They say dusk is the bewitching hour, and for us it was. We were seated in an adult outdoor garden lounge for cocktails. There were twenty tables scattered around the lounge. All of them filled with couples. Fancy and colorful drinks were served. Candles flickered brightly everywhere. The moon was rising, the evening swallows were fluttering about, the smells of the tropical plants permeated the air, a light yet warm breeze caressed us, it was perfect. Then we noticed the insanity. Almost every person had their high tech tools out and playing with them. These couples were not talking to each other. Not enjoying each other. Not connecting with each other or to nature. In fact they were likely talking to someone on the other side of the planet. We were floored to see how unconscious humanity had become. The beauty all around us was irrelevant. Their partners were irrelevant. The taste of their drinks was irrelevant. The only thing relevant so it seemed was what was on the screen. I felt a deep sadness for humanity at that moment. Why do we do this?
When we are in pain, we look for distractions. We become addicted to our distractions because it provides temporary relief from the pain, and high tech tools are a convenient and accepted source for distraction. But true life, and full living demands complete attention. Instead of feeling the beauty of each other and their surroundings, these couples avoided everything that mattered. They were disconnected. Distractions are only a short-term solution for the pain and agitation we feel. Short-term solutions give us short-term gain as they pull us away from feeling that discomfort. However it leads to long-term pain because nothing is ever resolved, and emotions are never processed. The high tech tools are just that – tools. However, we do not use them as simply tools. They dictate our lives like all addictions.
We are focused on technology and on the external and material because it keeps us from focusing on the internal and emotional. What are we so afraid of to look inside? Can we afford to become disconnected? Will our technology surpass our human interactions, as Albert Einstein said? If wisdom is emotional connection with ourselves and others, then I agree with Albert Einstein. We will have a generation of idiots. There is a big price to pay and we do not see the consequences.