Thursday, January 9, 2014

Disruptive technology - when CES is the cause of CES

In spite of the arctic weather being experienced in the many US states, Las Vegas is host to this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) which is ongoing up to the 10th of January 2014.

The wow factor during the opening day included "toys", gadgets and a tech's dreamworld of having gazillion eye-popping digital devices that would truly change the landscape of the world. While the tech buffs buzzed about with what App would impact among consumers, back in my clinic I was grappling with patients who were being raised by their digitally connected parents by technology.

I was discussing with parents of one of my patient who came in with the chief complaint of occasional headache, dizziness followed by vomiting. You could tell on history and physical examination that the child was a bubble of joy and activity. To cut the long story short (and I will do that because I don't want to bore my readers with medical jargon), the patient has Computer Eye/Vision Syndrome (CES). I referred her to a pediatric ophthalmologist to check if she also has error of refraction.

During the discussion of the diagnosis, I pried on the child's daily activities. And like many children, it's apparent that majority of us utilize digital technology as our official baby sitter. When your kid is uneasy and apparently a bundle to handle, shove an iPad with Angry Birds or Candy Crush or some other inane game installed. You'll also notice that in our hectic busy everyday life, the Telcos have become indispensable partners in raising our children. Blackberry and Apple are not fruits our children eat as source of vitamins. They are gadgets that they want in order to stay connected. Tweets are not sounds that birds make. The are "shout outs" for every little event in our daily lives. It has become a status symbol that to have a Twitter account is tantamount to being famous because you have "followers". The culture of a cult being born is shared by likes and comments on Facebook. You can count the number of friends to the point that many just say YES to friend requests even if they are drug dealers or if real estate pests who ask to be added as "friend". I have nothing against this. It is, after all, a free world. Let's face it - some of the posts are pointless. I see people posting anything from what is relevant information to just plain garbage to even just plain porn!

It's not that I am anti-technology. That's the least and the last message I want to impart in this blog entry. It's more of the fact that I am disturbed with how children are being raised by technology nowadays. You see homes full of Play Stations, Wii, Nintendo or other gaming devices and your kids are just engrossed in it. Never mind if they don't have breakfast, lunch or dinner - as long as they are pinned against the wall and on the gadget, you've got game! It's not unusual to see a family in a restaurant not engaging in any form of verbal communication. Dad is busy banging away in cyberspace at his iPhone. Mom is engaging and rambling with the office while hollering in over the mobile phone. The five kids are on several gadgets. The eldest son has his head wrapped on a headset with music blaring through and his punk head bobbing up and down as if he's having a seizure or orgasm to the rock music which can be heard at a distance of 3 meters. The other three kids are on an iPad, iPad mini and iPhone playing different games each. The feisty little 2 year old is engrossed in some cartoon character dancing and prancing away. This just shows you how bored they are with each other within the family circle. Leave them at home with the same gadget and they wouldn't care less about the world and the relationship within the family will not change anyway. Slaves to technology. Disruptive. Divisive. Raised by android or OS.

High-tech is being attuned to the rapidly changing digital world. You can count your calories burned on a pedometer. You can read your text message from your watch if you've bought a new Samsung phone with the smart watch. Come to think of it, we call it the smart age. Everything that is digitally attractive is called smart. Why does one even bother to have to flip through a textbook when you can have Google answer all your questions? Gone are the days when students had to pour over voluminous reading material in order to arrive at an answer. Today, all you need to do is punch in some key words and voila, you've got the most accurate answers that fit the key words you pounded on your keyboard. And there's even auto-correct for the idiotic bunch who can't get their spelling right. Finally, there's Siri whom you can ask questions or have Siri auto type your message without having to touch your phone's keypads. Yes, technology is so far advanced today, that once you literally go to bed tonight, someone would have a new App running before the sun rises.

And that takes a toll on the children we raise. Think about it. Is this the kind of family bonding you actually want? For example, a weekend at the beach with full battle (gadget) gear may be the ideal vacation for your family. Snap and post every moment in space. Lunch by the seaside with the breeze against your face? Nah. Nobody felt that. Your 6 year old wasn't busy building sand castles. She was probably by the sea playing some silly game on your iPhone. Then the 3 year old is crying because he wants to take a dip in the cool sparkling clear blue sea but since the maid is somewhere texting her boyfriend, and you're frantically looking for her, and you're up to your neck with the crying of your boy, and you hate the sun because you happen to be on some glutathione shot, you decide to just shove the little boy your iPad and put it in a Barney movie. He keeps quite. You sip on your Margarita and thank heaven for Steve Jobs' creation.

When movies about machines conquering the world was being predicted over a decade ago, everyone thought it was just a sci-fi movie. Today, it is very real. The machines don't actually talk back and govern us, YET. But they have, in more ways than one, disrupted lives that could have been built on more solid foundation of role modeling, love, trust and care. Many of us have actually made these inventions run our lives...or even ruin our families and even relationships. Ironically, what used to be a romantic moment for a date a decade ago meant quality time between two people madly in love with one another is very different today. Facetime and Skype have changed the way we stay connected. It's not a totally bad thing, but it's really not a totally romantic way of expressing true affection. Relationships have changed for worse, all in the name of some gadget or new electronic wiz!

At the end of the day, we just need to ask ourselves, is this the way we want our children to raise their children? And will we leave raising families to technology? It's sad if the answer is yes.