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Is technology making life better or worse?

We had a big debate in our NFI group the other day about whether technology is improving our lives or making things much more complicated. It used to be that you could walk around without a mobile or laptop and life wasn’t bad. Today, we have to have WiFi and the network 24*7 or we go crazy. Hmmm … so here were my arguments for and against technology.

On the positive side, technology makes our lives easier and more comfortable. From self-driving cars to auto-cleaners, everything in our lives is being automated and removing drudgery and boring things. More than this, we can fly, ride and book anything, anytime, anywhere. I remember recently missing the last train back to London on the Eurostar and, within minutes, had a car and a hotel room sorted out in Paris, along with a nice dinner. The recommendation engines mean that I usually stay in the best hotels and eat in the best restaurants around the world.

Getting to those places means kick-off the maps app. No more getting lost or not knowing where to go.

And then there was a lockdown, so maps and TripAdvisor was no longer needed; instead, we switched to Amazon and Netflix. I cannot imagine a lockdown without the network. How would we survive? In my case, I did all my shopping online for two years and never left the house, except to walk our pandemic puppy. I could do banking 24*7 and connect with friends and family worldwide via Zoom.

Equally, when I do end up taking piccies of my puppy, they’re all backed up automatically and indexed. Anytime I want, I can find what I need, wherever I am. It’s everything now. Everything is available now. It’s a world of instant gratification. It’s a world of everything now.

The problem with having everything now is when you don’t have it. When the network is down, and WiFi is not available. When things go wrong or get broken. It does amaze me for example, that a drop of liquid on a laptop kills it. I’ve had two die in recent years due to spilling coffee and wine. A pain the bum. On the upside, at least all my stuff is in the cloud and so I can get up and running in seconds on another laptop rather than having to find all my backup drives and reload them, as I did in the olden days.

You then hear of people losing thousands in fake romances and schemers, and all those issues have led to all these clunky and silly ways to use the network, like usernames and passwords that are easy to guess. People getting scammed and spammed non-stop. People being told to add numbers and special characters to their password, and so it becomes Password1!

Similarly, is the spread of fake news through Fakebook and the like. It’s hard to know what to believe anymore as every day there’s something shared that could be true or false. And now, with deep fake, who knows what’s true of false.

There’s then the dark side of the web and all those paedophiles and druggies out there, using the network for nefarious needs. Apparently you can even order an assassination on the dark side of the web (all paid for by bitcoin obvs).

The thing of most concern I guess is the addiction to tech. We all have attention deficit disorders these days, as we’re more interested in what’s happening on social media than being social. And children are being raised on devices and get no exercise. They’re all going to be big fat couch potatoes with ADHD and no etiquette.

I could go on (and on and on), but the debate ended up with a show of hands and everyone in the room voted that technology is making our lives better. I wasn’t surprised, as I’m a technologist, and I don’t want to go back in time to rotary phones, typewriters, handwritten letters and stacks of maps to drive from A to B. The fact I can do all those things today with a small device in my pocket has made a radical difference and yes, we are progressing all the time to be better.

And I guess that’s the core of innovation, invention, technology and progress, in that it’s all about making humanity better, more efficient, more productive and less reliant on muscle and more focused upon brain.

That’s my take anyways …

About Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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