Last night I went to the cinema to see the film The Circle. Whilst the ending of the film itself seemed achieved with undue haste, and with a contrived solution to create a happy ending, the film overall left me thinking enough to write this piece.
The film centres on a social media platform that starts to grow its applications without any thought for downsides and with slavish acceptance of the direction that the few at the top are taking the company.
Clearly the film draws on parallels with existing IT companies, with evangelistic meetings where mass euphoria and blind acceptance is the order of the day.
Coming home I took a look at my smart phone and realised that this one small gadget, that has more computing power than that required to put the first man on the moon, held a pretty good record of my life.
Indeed, the one thing that the device is least used as is as a telephone. On here there is a record of my exercise achievements daily; access to my bank and credit transactions; my diaries; my documents and emails; my contacts; the newspapers I read; the music I like; my moods on social media; who I chat to; where I have been and when with location and dated photos; etc.
But this is not just something that is peculiar to me. Today there are more people with mobile phones than there are people with clean drinking water.
So where are the people creating apps that are meaningful and useful to humanity? Instead we find people finding more and more ways to communicate without actually speaking to each other.
Only yesterday I pulled up alongside a father and daughter in a car at a traffic light. The signal indicated that there were 64 seconds to the change to green. This immediately evoked, not a keen observation of the traffic at this busy junction but a flurry of texting from both. The only difference in the two was the speed of texting!
Worse than this, we now use encryption to ensure security to all for their messages. For the idle chat of the majority, do we really need secure communication? Surely only the cheaters, drug dealers, other criminals and terrorists need such facilities?
I am not being a Luddite as far as technology is concerned. I recognise that technology can bring benefits when used wisely. However, I am concerned that the undoubted brains of the app creators is being used to chase the dollar at the expense of true relationships between people when they could be using their skill to make the world a better place for all.
While I don't need to know that someone has checked in to record drinking a latte in Starbucks, it would be great to see an app that made a phone check in to parents when a youngster was out with a pre-defined period between check-ins.
I don’t need encryption to ask my wife to bring something home from the shops, but it would be good to be able to vote securely from my mobile phone without the fear that results will be manipulated before they are announced.
Technology is advancing all of the time, and yet we live in a world where couples sit in restaurants looking at Facebook instead of each other, where popularity is measured by the number of ‘friends’ rather than the quality and where people have sacrificed debate and discussion for emojis and texts that convey 7% of any message at best.
The Circle may, at fist viewing, seem far-fetched. But, unless we use technology in a more effective manner, are we really that far away from such a world!