Can you imagine a world with no smartphones in it?
Yeah, me neither.
Two decades have passed since the first smartphone came out, and they have already radically changed our society. Initially, they were meant to be used only by corporates and businesses. Now, approximately three out of four people own a smartphone.
Checking emails, texting, posting on social media, listening to music, doing financial transactions, navigating, these are only a few of the most frequent tasks that we perform with our smartphones.
Most adults today do not remember a time when they did not own smartphones, so a present or future without them has become unimaginable. Tech companies are constantly competing to develop them more and more. Sometimes it may seem as if every day they come up with something new.
The smartphones of today are pretty impressive and some believe that we might not be seeing any groundbreaking innovations any time soon. Apps are more sophisticated and their algorithms more complex. These improvements may look natural because they are served to consumers who are so used to smartphones, that they cannot perform any task without them.
However, there have been radically different ideas in terms of how smartphones operate.
A decade ago, researchers at MIT started trying to develop technology that would allow us to control devices with our minds. There is no more looking for an app or scrolling or swiping. The users can control smartphones directly with their thoughts. Probably this innovation sounded like science fiction when it first came out, but then again, every innovation sounds so at first.
Until it suddenly becomes part of the mainstream culture.
The way we charge these gadgets has also changed. Instead of using cable chargers or wireless chargers that only cover small areas in a room, over air charging technology is now readily available. These chargers are built in the form of telephone poles and placed all around the world in every city, creating a network that automatically charges any smartphone regardless of its location. Gone are the days of worrying that the battery would die, or the days when we rationed the time on our phones because we knew we could not charge them until the end of the day.
What is this rapid technological change doing to our society?
Today scientists and psychologists are raising the alarm about smartphone addiction and the way that it has altered our brains and social lives. We have shorter attention spans, get constantly distracted from the never-ending flow of notifications on our phones, even when we are spending quality time with people we love and care about. Research has linked smartphone usage with increased levels of anxiety, depression, and narcissism among regular social media users.
With smartphones being commanded through sheer force of thought and wireless charger poles making it possible to keep them charged non-stop, society is now even more individualistic and focused on their consumption of technology.
Our cognitive capacities such as thinking and memory capacity are constantly focused on operating on a smartphone. This focus has caused us to entirely ignore the environment around us for many hours a day. Interpersonal relationships have become colder in real life and warmer in social media posts.
Humankind is too deeply immersed in technology to turn back now and change. We cannot just give up using smartphones when our whole social system has grown dependent on them. Even so, conscious daily decisions add a little bit to how our collective future will unfold. Right now, this collective future is highly dependent on what we do next. Maybe more than it ever was.
Technology will continue to be an integral part of the development of our civilization. Nevertheless, we could aim for balance and seek to understand the way that this technology affects us as a society before moving on to innovations so that when we look back.
10 years from now, we don't want to regret the choices we have made.