Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 23rd 2015 Contents B7
Thursday, April 23, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
On reflection, perhaps my column of last
week in which I predicted an imminent
Terminator: Rise of the Machines style
nightmare where all humans are slaugh-
tered by malfunctioning robots may have
come across as a bit, well, anti-technology.
I stand by my concerns about artificial
intelligence: we simply don t need it. And
the video of the Japanese humanoid robot
Aiko Chihira ("She can sing, dance and even
use sign language") I saw on the BBC Web
site this week has done nothing to convince
Picture Aiko as the prettier relation of the
Johnny Cab driver that Arnold Schwarzeneg-
ger dismantles in Total Recall, but female
and wearing a kimono.
BBC readers comments ranged from
"creepy" to "and so it begins..." to "my ex-
boyfriend s new girlfriend" to "apparently
she s the receptionist...only a matter of time
until she trips out and beats the s--- out
But am I wrong? We didn t think we need-
ed mobile phones 20 years ago, and now
look at us. Or, to be precise---look at me. It s
been brought to my attention this week that
rather than being anti-technology, I m actu-
ally addicted to it.
I m almost constantly glued to a digital
screen, if not two. At my worst, I have the
laptop in front of me with word documents
and Web browsers open, I have the iPad
playing some form of sport on the other side
of the table and I m messaging or e-mailing
or Facebooking someone on my phone.
I didn t really recognise the problem until
it was pointed out to me. Like many addic-
tions, mobile addiction affects the people
around the addict more than the addict
themselves. When you re the person tapping
away, oblivious to the real physical person
in front of you trying to ask you a question,
everything seems fine. But when you re the
real physical person, it can be immensely
I know, because I get frustrated at family
occasions when my seven-year-old nephew
and six-year-old niece sit at the dinner table
with heads bent over the Nintendo DS.
Is it something to be worried about for
the next generation? We ve all seen how
mesmerised babies and toddlers are at the
sight of a glowing iPhone. They re socialised
to them from the earliest age because their
parents are shoving them into their faces
taking pictures to show the world.
"Sometimes technology is your friend
when it comes to children," said a friend of
mine. And while I could see his point---adults
want to have a grown up conversation and
devices are a good distraction. But what did
we do when we were children before the age
of digital devices? We played games and cre-
ated imaginary worlds of wild invention. Are
we in danger of losing our inventiveness
because of the inventions we have. Will our
minds become lazy and passive?
For parents there is the danger of hypocrisy
---you can t tell your child not to play with
a phone when you have it in your hand all
the time. Instead, a self-imposed "out of
sight, out of mind" rule needs to be enforced.
I blame Trinidad for stoking my addiction.
Halfway across the world I needed to stay
in touch with friends and family. So Skype,
WhatsApp and Facebook became my ever-
present communication vehicles on evenings
when I was home on the sofa while my
Guadeloupian flatmate fed his own addic-
tion---Sony PlayStation---on the other sofa.
We d be metres apart, not speaking, while
I chatted silently to people thousands of
People even message each other in the
same house instead of speaking these days.
"Bring me the toilet roll...Are you coming
to bed?...Come downstairs your dinner s
One UK newspaper columnist last week
admitted to regularly swearing at her husband
by text message so the kids don t hear.
As for actually arranging to meet a friend
in person for a talk---why would we? We talk
to our friends more than we ever did before.
Who needs physical real world contact?
Manufacturers certainly don t. They seem
completely bent on tempting us to constantly
reach for the devices. It s the ding, the vibrat-
ing burr, the red notification dot, the com-
pulsion to "just check my phone." It s more-
ish like a toy except you never tire of it.
I was the stereotypical late adopter. I got
my first touchscreen phone in September
2012, years after my peers. For me the thrill
of having the world at my fingertips is still
But for anyone imagining what it would
be like to go back in time, fear not, it s actu-
ally not that bad.
On that Paris trip I mentioned last week,
we had no Wi-Fi and no 3G. We strolled the
beautiful boulevards totally data-less and
though at first we fretted that we were cut
off from the world, from knowledge, from
information---soon we relaxed and forgot
about apps, maps and Wikipedia pages. And
when we saw the hundreds of people taking
silly photos of themselves at the Arc de Tri-
omphe, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower we
scorned them as fools.
But as our train re-surfaced, this side of
the Channel our phones went ding and the
spell was re-cast.
Perhaps we should have thrown them into
the Seine and watched the modern world
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