Sometimes you’ve just got to switch off from a 24/7 connected life
There are times when I want to tune out, turn off and be alone. Being part of the discussion around future technologies and urban living is fascinating, scintillating and vibrant, but the pace of information means sometimes you’ve just got to switch off.
What nearly sent me over the edge this week was learning that White rhinos in a zoo in Paris had been poached for their horns. This gave my already taut nervous system a rather nasty jerk. How could this happen? What the hell is going on? Where were the sensors? What about the alarms? How can you just rock up to a zoo with a chainsaw and steal the horn off a LIVING RHINO in CAPTIVITY? I feel ashamed for being part of a species that would do this.
Added to all the other horrors – plight of child migrants, hate crime, rise of robots, loss of jobs, global warming, discrimination, cybercrime, misogyny and violence – you know the every day fodder that we’re faced with (and that’s usually before breakfast), we’ve got to make sure our technological innovations are seriously meaningful.
I don’t want to read about smart toothbrushes that take pictures of the inside of your mouth so you can see that you’re brushing properly. Talk about over engineering! Use some disclosure tablets and an egg timer. Get a life.
I do want to read about 3D printed houses that can address housing issues and refugee shelters. I want to read about how apps and data are protecting the women and children against sexual assault in India (see the article Data for Change by Prithika Nair in our Special Features this month and how this in turn is starting to alter behaviours albeit in a small way.
Then just as I was about to give it all up and become a goat farmer, a ray of sunshine of a blog came in. The upshot of this is about not making cities smart or smarter but also actually making them kind. It went on to list a few apps that help to maintain cohesion, harmony, safety and care in local neighbourhoods. Technology is so often spectacular but we need to make sure that the innovations we are creating and introducing actually have societal values sewn into them so they serve us all.
It’s easy to get side tracked by the relentless, ugly mayhem that surrounds us but often this is balanced out. On the day I read about the White Rhinos, I was also reminded about the Toads. It’s not unusual for councils and parks authorities to close roads during the breeding season which starts about now, to ensure that these creatures can get to their mating ponds without being squashed. Often too, you’ll find volunteers on non-closed roads armed with buckets and moist rubber gloves to help these love focussed amphibians to get across safely. How wonderful and life affirming is that?
OK time out over. Time to switch on and get ready for the onslaught another week.