The harsh realities of a tech-less world.
The date was 11 November 2020. It was just after midnight. The sky was dark, everyone in the flat was asleep, the world seemed so quiet. I stared at my screen as the symbol turned and turned and turned and turned. My midnight snack lay at the bedside, waiting for the video to start, desperate to be eaten. But the symbol kept turning. And then PING! PING! PING! PING! My phone was beeping relentlessly. Has someone been hurt? Has Covid been solved? I did not know. So, I picked up my phone to check my messages. Something terrible had happened. Something beyond my worst nightmares. YouTube had crashed.
There’s nothing like loss to make you realise how much you love something. Even if that something is a place to watch dogs chasing geese, or Benedict Cumberbatch trying to say “penguin”. The inability to access YouTube has reinforced what we have known for years but ignored, the human race’s inability to function without technology.
Now, Google hasn’t existed since time immemorial. Humans have lived – quite well and successfully at that – without social media or the internet in general. But common, everyday things have become unimaginable without the crutch of the internet.
Let’s take every student’s favourite pastime for example: procrastination. There is not one person on planet earth who hasn’t procrastinated. Laundry? Oh, but James Charles has posted a new YouTube video! Essay deadline? More like Brooklyn Nine-Nine! But now, imagine a world where that wasn’t possible: a world where we’d have to pass time WITHOUT the internet!
I love reading books and playing board games, truly, I do, a little too much even. But I do need my screen time fix. And a world without the internet is like the Grinch successfully stealing Christmas. No Netflix, no Amazon, no UberEats. Well, maybe evil gremlin corporations don’t get as much money, but life would be so dreadfully boring. So, to make sure I am capable of surviving without the internet, I googled “how to survive without the internet”.
In addition to worrying about machines taking over the world, and the earth being ruled by A.I. (and worrying about Covid, the climate crisis, racism, homophobia, transphobia xenophobia, crime statistics, the existence of free will), I am now worried about a global technological collapse. Economies would crash, governments would fall, all communication would be lost. We would have to revert back to this thing people say are called “letters”, have to visit what people call “shops”, do math *gasps in horror* without a calculator. We would not know at a moment’s notice, what is happening in the far away corners of the world, or be able to post that really cute picture tagged #throwbackthursday. A world where a “tweet” is the sound of a bird, a “snap” the sound of a branch breaking, a “stream” a water body, and “tik tok” is the sound of an actual clock.
While it might seem as though I am leading to a point on how our reliance on the internet is going to be the result of the doom and gloom of the human civilisation (and often at times I do believe that), I am constantly conflicted about whether this tech-centric world we live in is actually as bad as my mind sometimes makes it to be. In a world plagued with a climate crisis, one could argue that digitisation, the internet of things, and technological dependencies, are crucial to working towards saving the planet. These pandemic times show the importance of technology in being able to maintain connections with loved ones, and these are valid points to be made and weigh heavily in the tech-dependence debate. Which raises the question: is the technological dependency that has become characteristic of the 21st century human species, inevitable?
Social media addiction has widely been recognised as an issue, but is this dependency not akin to the one developed on electricity? If concerns of a life without electricity are valid, why are similar concerns regarding social media and the internet characterised as “spoilt brat” complaints? With the introduction of electricity, life became so much easier, and related developments, welcome with open arms. Electricity was not seen as a crutch, rather as a beacon to the future, and a light to a brighter tomorrow. An argument could be made that the internet is just like electricity. It has made life so much easier in so many ways. Communication has never been more accessible; you can speak to your friends and family in the opposite corner of the world in a matter of mere seconds. Information has never been more accessible, making academic research and general levels of education and awareness easier, faster, and better. And in relation to the circumstances that led to this article, internet developments have given rise to so many new forms of entertainment like YouTube.
If then we can agree that technological dependencies are crucial to the functioning of the world, and indeed an evolutionary stage in the human civilisation, how do we cope with a world where even a single one of the many facets of the internet shut down?
The only thing remotely close to an answer I could come to is this: Google how to live without the internet before you actually don’t have the internet. That way at least, you get a headstart, when the techpocalypse falls upon the world.