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Merging of physical, digital, and biological worlds: has technology enslaved us?

Internet and smartphone addiction are the most identified digital addictions prevailing today, especially among the younger generation.

Merging of physical, digital, and biological worlds: has technology enslaved us?
To sum up, we are continuously spinning around digital technologies, from the minute we wake up early in the morning to sleep at night. (Image Credit: Pixabay)

Information and communication technology has turned into an integral part of our lives. Today we are living in a complete era of digitalization which undoubtedly offers a great promise to transform lives and can be used for both good and bad. Good in the form of enhanced services to simplify lives and bad from opportunities for its misuse, the fear of turning use into abuse.

Digitalization has redefined almost every sector ranging from economy to governance, education to healthcare, agriculture to transport and from industries to work-force. Technology-driven innovations are transforming the world with the increased use of the internet, online platforms, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, big data and much more.

Internet, the most important invention of all times has revolutionized communications and methods of commerce around the world. The use of Social Media has tremendously grown over the years. Social media is now a new mode of global connectivity for a common man and a new platform for various businesses and entrepreneurs to endorse their products globally, regardless of the location.

Big Data is a valuable asset in the age of digitalization. A collection of extremely huge volumes of data sets in real-time is how big data can be defined as. All major emerging technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, the Internet of Things etc. use big data to bring enhancements and advancements to their solutions. To sum up, big data is everywhere.

AI is the new source of growth and innovation for the economy and humans as well. From facial recognition to autonomous cars, artificial intelligence has transformed the world in a way, like never before. AI is bringing up a new era of automation and enhanced customer experience, by enhancing the performance and efficiency of communication networks. Everything around us is turning digital.

We can't deny the fact that we have gained immense from technological advancements but do we know that technology is taking over our lives, without us even noticing? The technology we adopted for making our lives more efficient by saving time and money has already begun using us. The disruption of technology has also generated a fierce debate about its impact in the society affecting issues such as employment rates, compromising health, security, and sustainability.

Are we a digital slave?

Yes, indeed. We are living in a virtual world where people prefer electronic communication over physical interaction. Internet and smartphone addiction are the most identified digital addictions prevailing today, especially among the younger generation. Heads down and gazing at the mobile phones is the most common posture of a majority of youths today. Many people are still unaware of the fact that this addiction is actually a serious concern affecting millions around the world.

(Image Credit: Twitter)

Our life is getting confined to the Smartphone, Internet, Social media and other digital innovations. Figures taken from a new 2018 Global Digital suite of reports from 'We Are Social and Hootsuite, reveal few facts in 2018:

  • The number of internet users is 4.021 billion
  • The number of mobile phone users is 5.135 billion
  • The number of social media users worldwide is 3.196 billion.

Few other interesting facts are:

  • According to UNICEF, one in three internet users worldwide is a child, and young people are now the most connected of all age groups.
  • Teens spend up to an average of nine hours a day on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter.
  • Global mobile apps market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 15.14 percent during the period 2017-2021, according to Market Landscape, Market Sizing and Forecast report added in ReportsnReports.com.

Mobile phones aren't just limited to texting and calling. The escalating smartphone market has also increased the growth and use of mobile applications. Using applications to count steps you took today, measuring water intake, calorie intakes, smart digital watches to track health, broadcasting social life and relationships in social media and everything is just revolving in and around technology and willingly or unwilling we are slowly turning into digital slaves. To sum up, we are continuously spinning around digital technologies, from the minute we wake up early in the morning to sleep at night. Over-use and excess reliant on technology impact on developmental, social, mental and physical well-being.

"New technologies and approaches are merging the physical, digital, and biological worlds in ways that will fundamentally transform humankind. The extent to which that transformation is positive will depend on how we navigate the risks and opportunities that arise along the way"

These words from Klaus Schwab, a German Economist are going well with the ongoing context. Technology delivers both promises and perils as well.

The undeniable truth about technologies is that it could be destructive too; all depends on how we use it. Internet, for instance, is the platform where security and privacy of our data have always been questioned. In recent times, we have seen many cases of data breaches, cyber-attacks, cyberbullying, phishing etc. Furthermore, criminals exploit social media to rapidly distribute false news and other forms of misinformation.

Taking the example of India where misinformation or false messages in instant messaging service WhatsApp have led to mass beatings this year of more than a dozen people, some of whom have died.

With the advent of AI, big data analysis and biometric technologies that rely highly on huge volumes of data, the chances of data loss have been increased to a greater extent. A majority of companies have started using AI to make digital devices even smarter. But on contrary, AI poses a significant threat to user privacy and security, since they accumulate a lot of information about the user.

With the younger generation spending more time with digital devices, the mental and physical health is becoming an issue of concern. Overexposure to modern technologies can have a devastating effect on the social, mental and physical health of an individual. The World Health Organization recently added digital gaming or video-gaming to the11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). ICD-11 defines gaming disorder as a pattern of gaming behaviour characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.

(Video Credit: WHO)

The technology was never intended to harm humans but the way we use it today has attracted much more attention to the negative side-effects of it. In order to ensure that technology will uphold human values, design methods are needed that incorporate ethical principles and address societal concerns. We need to maintain equilibrium between technology and ethical values to reap maximum benefits.

Technology is an irresistible reality of our life, for good or for worse. The way we minimize the risks associated with it will maximize the benefits to shape our lives and will make a positive contribution to the society.

As Christian Lous Lange, a Norwegian historian and political scientist said "Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master"

So let it remain a servant and purpose is to serve humanity, rather than undermining it.

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