I want to start by getting something out in the open. I am a true child of the 21st century, and I love to watch the progression of technological development. I have a smart phone, a laptop, fast desktop computer, and a few other gadgets, and I believe these technologies give me opportunities to improve myself every day. I also own a car, though you may not know it because I hardly drive the thing. I live in a medium size city that provides me with ample opportunity to ride my bike to most of my destinations.
This entirely changes the meaning of my daily commute to work. Instead of my trip being a transition to whatever my destination, it is an actual event itself. Since I am traveling about half the speed of most cars, I have plenty of time to observe the areas that I pass through. I see every house, every person, all of the other commuters in their cars, and I have plenty of time to absorb what is happening around me.
When I drive my car, I get none of those things. A car is nothing more than your very own little environment in a box that passes by the world faster than one can take in the sights. Everything about a car separates the passengers from the world around them. The windows keep out the outside environment and the AC/heat assure the operate that they will have optimal air quality. The radio cuts out the noises of everything and means that you will only hear what you want to. The high speeds mean that you will never get to see everything that you are passing by.
Not only do these things cut you off from the world, but they also cut everyone else off from you. When another driver sees you coming down the road they see your car, and will probably never see you.
They see only the machine, and not the person.
This becomes most apparent in road rage. If you are walking down the sidewalk and someone accidentally bumps in to you, the other person will probably look at you and offer some words of apology. This simple apology can completely diffuse the situation and show you that this other person is human just like you and is prone to accidents.
If that same person were to cut you off on the road you would see a machine that inhibits your commute. This machine would not apologize to you, it would not show any remorse, and in fact, it would not even recognize that you exist. You would never see the human part of the equation.
The automobile is a perfect example of technology that we use to separate ourselves from each other. Yes, it does give us the chance to visit people that live further away from us, but without the technology we probably wouldn’t move very far away anyways.
When I ride my bike to work, I can interact with the world around me. I can say hello to the crossing guard that I pass by, see the people that live in my area, and experience the beauty of the weather of that particular day. In my car I get none of that.
This is just one of many examples of technology dividing us. How often are you texting someone when you could be talking face to face with a stranger next to you? Maybe you visit someone’s facebook page instead of visiting them in person, or get lost in cyberspace while someone next to you in physical space desires your attention. I will tell you that I am just as guilty as the next person.
These technologies have unlimited potential to draw us closer and closer together, but the same things that can do that can also push us further and further away. We exist in a world of duality with everything consisting of good and bad, and it is up to each and every one of us to find the right balance.