THE BLOG
19/02/2015 12:57 GMT | Updated 21/04/2015 06:59 BST

Does Innovation Lead to Hibernation?

On my commute to work this morning I overheard the start of a friendly debate between a young woman in her early 20's and an older man in his late 60's. They were talking about technology, and he asked her if she truly thought it had made our world a better place.

On my commute to work this morning I overheard the start of a friendly debate between a young woman in her early 20's and an older man in his late 60's. They were talking about technology, and he asked her if she truly thought it had made our world a better place.

Unfortunately as the noise of the engines increased, I was unable to hear the specific points that were made, but it was quite obvious that she believed it had. His facial expressions clearly indicated that he disagreed.

Resigned to the fact that my eavesdropping opportunity had ceased, I began to think about the question and wondered how I would answer it.

Instead of having thoughts ponder in my head, I decided to write them down - using the Notes application of my fancy iPhone 6.

Could I have done this 20 years ago?

Absolutely not, I'd have needed a pen and paper.

(1 point to the young woman)

My first dot point focussed on modern medicine and the enhanced equipment in hospitals that enable us to live longer than we used to.

(Another point to the young woman)

Then I thought about these great online and mobile applications that help us communicate with one another from different ends of the world. Skype, FaceTime, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Viber, Snapchat all came to mind.

I am old enough to remember making overseas telephone calls where there was a three second delay when I'd speak to my Grandparents overseas. If I were born 25 years later I'd have been able to video chat with them in real time.

(Yet another point to the young woman)

As I looked outside I saw sophisticated infrastructure, fancy new cars that enable people to get around, and jumbo jet airplanes that help us travel from one part of our planet to the other. Innovation and technological advancements have made all of this possible.

(You guessed it, another point to the young woman)

This exercise was becoming a whitewash and I wasn't sure if there was any point continuing.

I began to think about the older man, and wondered how he could possibly believe that things were better when he was growing up.

I stopped taking notes for a moment, took my eyes away from my phone and looked up at the people around me.

What I saw was a disengaged society.

Everyone's eyes were locked in on their digital devices. Very few were taking in the physical elements around them, despite the fact that it was a beautiful day outside. Additionally, nobody was making eye contact with one another.

I immediately thought back to last Sunday, where the Rabbi of my congregation conducted a wedding ceremony that I attended. One of the things he said was:

"This being Valentines weekend, it is most important that you display your presence with a C rather than your presents with a T".

It dawned on me that hardly anyone around me was displaying their presence with a 'C'.

Why not?

Because they were too busy tweeting, hash tagging and playing candy crush.

(1 point to the old man)

It is indisputable that technology has added so much to our lives - but at what cost?

I started to think about the parents I see these days, who give their young children iPads and game consoles to keep them occupied. When I was a young boy my mum and dad took me to the park or beach at every given opportunity. Those are some of my favourite memories and I wouldn't ever want to trade them for an afternoon indoors with a PlayStation.

(Another point to the old man)

Then I started thinking about my closest friends, and I realised that I couldn't even remember the last time I had a proper phone conversation with some of them. Sure, there have been text messages and social media 'status likes'- but in reality it's actually quite hollow and impersonal.

Having spoken to others about this, it's evident that they too had lost regular personal contact with some of the significant people in their life - but they were quick to mention that they stay in touch through Facebook and Instagram.

(Yet another point to the old man)

I remember a time when things were different. When I was growing up people used to talk to each other and make eye contact. We wrote each other handwritten cards on our birthdays, turned the television off during family dinner, and played hand ball and hopscotch instead of Minecraft and Angry Birds.

(And now the scores are tied)

So has technology made the world a better place?

I think it's certainly made us more efficient and given us opportunities we could have never dreamed of once upon a time.

Unfortunately though, some of the innovations have distracted us so much so that we have lost our presence with a 'C'.

We need to reverse this trend so future generations don't become even more anti social and robotic than we currently are.