TECH & SCIENCE
SCREENS are so 2017.
Okay, you got me - hell will freeze over before I get bored of looking at my PC screen, or my tv screen, or my phone screen, or my ereader screen, or my tablet screen, or going to the cinema to look at a giant screen...I may have a problem.
Since the advent of the first home televisions, people have been obsessed with staring at these large, shiny rectangles of endless entertainment, so much so that in 2016, a survey conducted by the organisation ‘R U OK?’ found that Australians spent eight times as many hours per week staring at screens than they did with their loved ones.
That’s a sobering statistic, if ever there was one.
This year, the World Health Organisation listed gaming addiction (and by extension the screen staring associated with it) as a diagnosable mental disorder.
With so much time dedicated to locking our eyes onto screens, it’s small wonder that, even though technology has drastically broadened our communities, encompassing the entire globe in many instances, people are becoming more socially isolated in their immediate surroundings.
After all, if it’s easy to catch up with a friend who lives three hours away from you via Facebook or some other form of social network, the incentive to go and visit them in the flesh can lessen significantly.
Additionally, with ready access to online communities of people who hold nearly identical beliefs and values as you do - or who share the same interests - the impetus to go out and meet people in your town with whom you might only slightly kick it off with - if you’re lucky - dies off pretty rapidly.
Say what you will about the ‘Japanese RPG Furry Cosplay Fanatics’ subreddit, but you know exactly what type of people are going to be posting on there.
You couldn’t say the same of the crowd in the local night spot on any given evening.
It’s much easier and more convenient to sit at home staring at your computer screen and chat to your online pals.
It may simply be a matter of perspective, but if the trend of screen-time over real-time continues and intensifies, I think it paints a very bleak future.
If invocations of Godwin’s law are any indication, we’re already seeing a marked increase in pretty severe tribalism, as more and more people are quick to slap anyone who slightly disagrees with them on a political matter with the label of fascist or a Nazi.
Online bullying, too, is a scourge of the modern era, and the instances of this seem to get worse with every sorry news headline.
As a species, this form of online screen-communication is very new to us, and perhaps, with time, we will mature into it, and understand it better.
Or perhaps the answer will be to do away with screens all together, and embrace what might be the next stage in a technological advancement - screenless devices. As the big tech companies look at new ways to innovate, we’re seeing the rise of devices that, although they afford us online connectivity and methods of communication, they do so sans a screen.
With the implementation of artificial intelligence’s such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant, consumers are able to let their devices do the online searching for them via voice commands, allowing them to stay in the real world, rather than be glued to a screen.
On top of this, we’re seeing more wearable devices that also allow us to connect to the internet in a far less obtrusive manner.
And while augmented reality is largely relegated to gimmickry in its present form and application, there seems to be plenty of room to expand the technology in such ways that allow us to maintain our focus on our immediate surroundings yet accomplish online tasks.
And perhaps last but not least, the idea of an implant that sends information straight to your brain has been around for a while, but major universities are continually reporting progress with brain implants used in lab rats and humans, while commercial applications for noninvasive coupling with human brain signals are also emerging.
Japanese company, Necomimi, has even developed cat ears that can be worn on the human head and manipulated using only the human mind.
This may sound banal, but the underlying technology behind this kind of mind control could have huge implications for developing screenless technologies.
◆ WEARABLES: Could wearable technologies become a good compromise between granting us online access while reducing our reliance on screen-staring activities?