Saturday, January 26, 2019

Staying Current in a Digital Age

As I've aged, I've found it hard to keep up with current trends in music, art, new phenoms, and changes in human perspectives, usually of those younger than me. I don't listen to much of the new music, its musicians and singers, and often not to the newest actors or artists in any medium including the movies which I used to love. Their messages do not address me. My son informed me the older you get, the faster time passes, and it certainly seems true. I also think this might happen because we are in very different time frames, perhaps because I've already collected many memories while those younger than me are still in the collection process.

Matter of fact, I think I've become rather reclusive. At the same time, I think I have more cognitive outlooks and broader perspectives and understanding on everything over what I once had. I think, too, that I've become more open-minded and interested in different cultures, personalities, and perspectives.

The digital age has greatly changed the way everyone lives and interacts with everyone else. Some of the changes are very positive, like how books and other media are available on digital devices, and some are the exact opposite, which is beginning to be proved harmful to its users. Keeping up with the changes in technology can be difficult and cause trouble, not only in a knowledge of technical accomplishments but also in the user's face-to-face relationships.

Knowing information is gathered on everyone worries me about the lack of privacy. Plus this information can be on crimes committed (so far I've committed no legal ones only social mishaps), sentences served, economic position, employment, relationships, etc., with no limit on the time frame on which this information can be kept online.

Now we face artificial intelligence and how it might control our lives. A recent 60 Minutes episode spoke to Chinese venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee on that country's developing AI. It showed the facial recognition of facial emotions. With the tracking of already in place with public cameras how soon will it be before people cannot move without digital knowledge? I find it rather scary and wonder how it will affect everyone in the future.

Isn't funny how technology has also changed how we describe relationships? They can be face-to-face in real-time and reality, or online and digital which can stretch the time frame of the interchange. Yet, online meeting apps redefines face-to-face. I suppose those apps provide face-to-face in real-time, even if everyone is hundreds of miles apart.

All the things people once gathered to appreciate can now be experienced online, but differences abound. The experience of being one of a massive crowd at an event and the different senses it engages and the expectations engendered is far different from experiencing such an event while sitting alone and plugged in. It also gives access to episodes some would like to forget, but hundreds of thousands of viewers find humorous. Immersion in social media can create a void in a person's life of what is really going on around not only them and their community but also the rest of the world.

In some ways this advantage changes humanity. Constant use of technology makes users cogs in a network and might lead to a dehumanizing effect. Learning about its use in bullying and spreading hate and disinformation already seems to indicate this phenomenon. On the other hand, the ability to attend an online class from home and arrange your time around job and family commitments makes learning more accessible than being tied to attending a classroom at a certain location.

Another digital connection problem seems to be what many forget: a large portion of the human populations and cultures are not connected through technology. Those with better circumstances and easy availability to communication sometimes remain unaware of how those who live in very harsh or neglected environments survive. This ignorance also makes it difficult to gain awareness of these people.

Moreover, attending to all relationships on your iPhone dramatically changes those relationships. Being in the presence of another person, family, and friends, or even strangers, changes relationships more than just talking and hearing or seeing them. The sense of touch, missing from digital, adds a dimension to close relationships. Holding someone's hand whether in a handshake or just holding for friendship or comfort, feeling the heat of that body, hugging, sharing close moments of sadness or humor, strengthens relations far more than the most heartfelt digital message. It gives a foundation for accepting another as a distinct individual and as a necessity to your own life.

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