Many of us have seen the YouTube video where a woman, innocently walking and texting, falls into a large fountain at a mall, completely unaware. The video was very popular a while back, and while some found it humorous in a Three Stooges sort of way, it actually highlights a growing trend of accidents that are occurring due to people texting while walking. Today, people rely on GPS to get anywhere (who reads a map anymore?), instant message their significant other from the other side of the couch, check Facebook first thing in the morning – and even fall into fountains for the love of texting.
To a similar — yet less dangerous — point, a friend of mine who works in marketing told me that many retail outlets today are purposely not stocking their wares higher than eye level because people simply do not look up much anymore. Wow!
This led me to wonder: Has technology affected us so much that almost every aspect of our behavior has changed? Is that what was intended? Have we outthought ourselves?
Consider that technology is most successful when it engages our senses (witness touchscreens and download devices for movies and music), and according to the IDTechEx Touch Screen Modules, Technologies, Markets, Forecasts 2012-2022, the touchscreen market alone is set to reach a staggering $14 billion in 2012 (see related story, http://tiny.cc/qipqdw).
So, I ask again, are we directing technology or is technology now dictating what we need and how we use it?
Take Tesco, whose South Korean network of shops, called Home Plus, now features an LCD supermarket set on a train platform so that busy commuters can do their entire grocery shopping while waiting. Gives new meaning to the term “subway” sandwiches, eh?
While certainly an innovative idea, I can’t help but wonder what kind of impact — intended or unintended — this type of technology will have on human behavior. Will commuters buy more since they do not have to carry grocery bags around? Will people buy less as their grocery list will be seen for all other commuters on the platform to see? That is one way to view technology as the great equalizer.
Another more positive way is to consider that it is more and more common to hear stories of entrepreneurs running million-dollar businesses while being too young to drive, or a tribute band singer scoring a gig with his idols because they saw him sing on YouTube.
This is technology. It appeals to our senses, our sense of convenience, our sense of vanity, and our sense of connection. However, I would argue that our behavior has not so much evolved with, but rather adapted to, technology. We might get things done quicker, but we also might end up getting wet at the same time. – John Filippelli