The other day, while talking to a fellow businessperson, I mentioned how I believed that we were entering an era of robotic super-soldiers. This person challenged me, “You’ve heard of people who lose their job in the future because they have a computer in their hand, or a tablet in their hand, or a smartphone in their hand.”
He was referring to the fact that many employees today are using these devices to access the company’s information in real-time, rather than just relying on their keyboard and mouse. Indeed, I understand the point, and I also believe that the use of such technology will reduce the number of absences from work. Nevertheless, the future will also feature a lot of wearables, and I would like to explore how new technologies will impact our hobbies.
In the first place, the question is how new technologies will impact hobbies. If you look at the gadgets we have at home, such as iPhones, iPads, and Nintendo Wii consoles, you’ll see that they have incorporated sensors to help them communicate with one another. And the use of software such as Skype and Google+ has increased the capabilities of messaging. These devices make it much easier to stay in touch with distant family and friends, as well as colleagues. They’re also making it much more convenient to play games and socialize online.
You might also consider the implications of 3D technology. Games such as Call of Duty and Halo are not only fun to play, but they allow people to experience a near reality sense of combat, and they involve strategies, planning, and thinking. This, in turn, will enable many to be better warriors and better workers.
On the other hand, how new technologies will impact humanities depends on how we use our minds. If we’re used to having computers and the internet in our lives, we’ll quickly get used to having access to nearly infinite information and capabilities. And with this comes the need to be able to rapidly process information.
The result, as some ethicists fear, is a reduction in creativity. The result may be an increase in the mass creation of fake facts and fiction, rather than anything more substantive. Ultimately, it could even lead to a regression in education and a withdrawal from the academy altogether.
So how new technologies will impact humanities largely depends on whether or not we can create a space where the human mind can operate in its natural habitat. In other words, if computers and other new technologies can’t be completely controlled, then we’ll still have to engage our minds in other ways. And one way to do this is through the humanities. For instance, doing research or analysis through means such as humanities publications is an important part of cultivating intellectual life. It allows us to build on previous ideas and to test hypotheses.
This sort of activity will require that we adopt specific skills. Just like the acquisition of new skills, it’s important for us to be attentive to how new technologies will impact our activities. What kinds of activities do we engage in that will be affected by technology? These days, humanities activities are expanding into areas such as anthropology, cultural engineering, and information science.
One of the most troubling effects of new technologies is how it’s changing social norms. It’s been noted that in some areas of India and Pakistan girls are going to school earlier. In other cases, parents are supporting girls who leave their homes to study; others are encouraging traditional marriage. In many societies, young people are being encouraged to get involved in business or professional activities. And many jobs involve sitting at home doing computer work all day; this has a distinct impact on family life. All of these changes, if they continue unchecked, could have a major impact on the integrity of society.
One thing to think about is this: many technologies are actually enhancing human interaction. Think about email, the Internet, text messaging, video conferencing, telephones, and so on. These innovations have made it easier for people to stay connected, share information, and conduct business more efficiently.
The impact of new technologies on the humanities can vary tremendously, from improving interpersonal relationships to empowering individuals and groups. But no one can avoid the reality that any new technologies will impact human life in some way.