Written Work by Graham T. Baden
In “Technology is the Currency of our Lives,” found in High Tech, High Touch, published in 1999, the author John Naisbitt discusses a familiar topic, but it in an interesting way. Naisbitt’s approach explores the impact of technology on Western life, and contrasts it with what he calls “high touch.” By now, we are all aware of technology’s impact on our post-modern lives. The most important aspect of Naisbitt’s argument, however, is technology’s use in “collapsing, crunching, and compressing time.” While he states that technology is the currency of our lives, his more important point is his discussion of its impact on our perception of time and space. Though this factor is more important to his thesis, here, he is stopped short by the limitations of the text.
When stating that “technology is the currency of our lives,” some definitions are in order. In order to address Naisbitt’s argument accurately, it is necessary to understand what he meant by “technology” and “currency.” If defined as the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, technology, then, is any method humanity has put into practical use that wasn’t cooked up by Mother Nature Herself. Currency’s definition is more complicated, though. Does the author mean it as a popularly accepted quality or medium, or as a system of monetary exchange? Either way, it is fair to imagine Naisbitt intended it to mean that technology is a popularly accepted method of getting things done.
With that understanding, it is plain to see that the only difference between notebooks, Powerbooks, and iPads is their relative speed of use, and ease of implementation. Just as a tablet computer and an email are technology, a piece of paper, a pencil, and “snail mail” are too. One of these currencies simply allows us to move faster, acquire information more quickly, and do more– now! (Like, right-now, right-now…) The author touches this only briefly. He finds that, where humanity’s time used to be “set by nature’s rhythms,” now it seems that “subtle awareness is lost.” He suggests that because of our addiction to this fast-paced technological world, humanity has lost access to the “high-touch” currencies of the material, tangible world.
The reader will certainly recognize the author’s message. It is easy to become distracted by the volume of information with which we are almost-constantly berated. It seems almost a given that modern humans will be inbred with an intrinsic Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But this is not technology’s fault, it is ours, and we don’t need to escape to Alaska to find solace from it. Spending five minutes a day in meditation or quiet reflection, riding our bicycles instead of driving, and taking time to exercise or eating locally grown and distributed foods; these are easy methods of dealing with the fast-paced world in which we live. For example, I have a widget on my smartphone that gives me an up-to-the-minute Moon Phase calendar. Does that connect me to, or distance me from, Mother Nature? Is technology at fault?
Becoming addicted to technology is just as easy as becoming addicted to cigarettes– and just as easy to overcome. Our mind is the medium, and assigning blame to technological culture is simplistic and defeatist. Technology “is” our currency– it has been since the dawn of Man. Even as I type this, new forms of Bitcoin are created along the “block chain.” It is a currency, and like any currency, we must be careful not to spend ourselves into a deficit. Like anything, to remain centered in the Moment– in the Here and Now– it is essential to moderate our activities and measure our breaths. As soon as technology is able to handle that for me, I’ll be as startled and confused as Neo was when he sparred with Morpheus.