When I was a boy growing up I heard talk about robots taking over jobs that people were doing. It sounded like science fiction, but it was not long before it became reality. People were afraid of the technology because they saw themselves being put on the sidelines.
It turned out that as technology developed new jobs appeared. The centres that produced cars introduced robots. Soon robots controlled the assembly line and of course, cars were produced faster and with near impeccable finishes.
Mechanics no longer had to troubleshoot. They had computers that identified the faults in the time it took to say “What’s the problem.” Of course there are fewer workmen, but these workmen moved on to improve themselves and became mechanics themselves because there were even more vehicles on the roads.
Technology made the post offices become redundant as far as letters were concerned. People no longer had to wait weeks for a reply to a letter. E-mail made everything instantaneous. Even stores found that they now need to change their business approach. They no longer hold the monopoly on sales. People are shopping online from the confines of their homes.
Like the post offices, stores have to find new approaches to attract customers.
Technology shift people from one location to another in less time. A trip from Guyana to New York is five hours. There was a time when it took three weeks.
Managers and chairmen can call meetings even as they are in their homes. Such is the power of Information and Communication Technology. There is Skype and all manner of conference chats. Technology has actually slowed the pace of work.
Again, when I was a boy, if I wanted to do research I had to head to the library. My relatively wealthy friends had Encyclopaedia Britannica, a large volume of information. Today there is Google which is at the fingertips of anyone who has a smart phone.
But there are the negatives and these are many. At first people thought that they were merely keeping their children active and up to date with technology. Many saw their children becoming tech savvy and perhaps becoming people in demand the world over.
What they never foresaw was the fallout. And the fallout has been horrendous. Families are falling apart. Of course, we never saw it coming. I remember buying a smart phone for my grandson but even before that he was always with a remote playing video games.
My daughter bought a monitor for him to better enjoy his video game. She did not want him to want to play when I wanted to watch TV and I thought that it was a good thing until I bought the phone. Three years later the TV monitor he got is gathering dust because video games are things of the past. It is the phone.
At the breakfast table it is the phone; at rest it is the phone; at work during every break it is the phone. And he is not unique. Glenn Lall, the Publisher of Kaieteur News arranged for every technical worker to leave his phone with the guards until they were heading home. This lasted for no more than a week.
There is no parent who can say that he or she is spending time having conversations with children. There is simply no talk time. The result is that children are unaware of situations in the home and they are not alone. There are parents who are similarly enmeshed in their phones. They have no time to talk with their children.
Toward the end of the week I had a conversation with Secretary General of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, Bernadette Lewis. It was enlightening and frightening at the same time. She told me about a Trinidadian boy whose parents gave him a smart phone. He was an excellent student but then his grades started to fall.
Being a concerned parent, she decided to take away the phone. That was a mistake. This quiet boy attacked her with unbelievable viciousness. He chopped her repeatedly and even severed her hand. His mother was simply keeping him away from an addiction. And children are addicted to their phones.
We now see young people sitting around and instead of talking to each other, they are on their phones. No one feels insulted because each is caught up in his own world.
In school, writing skills have fallen drastically. Inter-personal communication skills are disappearing as are the things that go into communicating. In human communication only about ten per cent is the spoken word. When two people are talking there is so much more in the conversation. Body language is about 90 per cent of face to face communication.
That is why telephone conversations while they can be flattering, can also be deceiving. It is not the spoken word but the body language. Police conducting interrogations go beyond what is said.
There is another downside to this addiction to the phone. I have been finding with increasing regularity, the use of ICT chat words. Imagine reporters are writing news items that could have a sentence that goes, “U could c the rain.”
But it is the make believe world into which these children descend that is worrying. Imagine a group of grown people walking around with their smart phones looking for Pokemon. And this is not confined to any single country.
Teachers in schools are no having problems. Children are lost in their phones rather than in their class work. There were attempts to ban these phones from the classrooms, but parents intervened insisting that they need to be in contact with their children.
And to make the situation worse, the big companies have what are called Attention Engineers whose job is to make the screen even more obsessive. And the children are becoming more hooked to the extent that the medical world is now seeing this trend as a mental health disorder.
So far, there are no psychiatrists to treat these cases because parents do not see their children as being mentally ill. And this is the frightening thing.
I have no answer. I have known parents who insist that meal times should see the phones put away, but what happens at the end of the meal. Some children will either nibble or wolf down the meal to get to the phone.
I have confronted people with their phones who refuse to use it to do research. Two days ago I found that ninety-five per cent of the staff did not know what a jalopy was and none hastened to look up the word. The phone is for Facebook and WhatsApp.
Parents are required to halt this frightening trend but then again, many will feel that the children are out of their way, and that is a good thing in their book.
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