Mobile Technology in Society


Question for Paul:
What is your opinion on mobile technology as it relates to society and culture?

That’s a great question. Mobile technology, and tech broadly, has its good and bad sides. From a personal perspective, working from the development and programming end of it, I love the intellectual satisfaction of working with algorithms and design patterns. I like being creative and appreciate the interconnectedness that technology brings to us. On the other hand, this connectivity is on a very superficial level and should not replace real socialization and community. We are seeing more and more anti-social people who lack basic communication skills, which may be influenced by certain types of technology, including mobile devices. It is fulfilling a human need in an illusory way.

One of the appealing aspects of mobile tech, besides being able to make a good living in the face of a poor (and often politically charged) academic job market, is how mobile is used to help people gain access to basic education, for instance, apps employed in Africa to alleviate illiteracy and support teacher training. While I don’t personally enjoy reading a lot of digital material– especially on a small screen– (I prefer traditional books), I can see the benefits that technology brings to people, who do not have library or bookstore access (traditional or online).

Unfortunately, the market is flooded with games and apps, some of which are a waste of time and brains cells, serving only to make consumers dumber, more distracted, and less able to communicate with others in the real world. I suppose the sole purpose of the creation of such material is to generate income for the developer or business owner. However, there are applications and technological innovations that bring concrete services to people and fill societal needs. My involvement, as a programmer and developer, in the world of software, is guided by the vision of using technology to benefit society. Mobile is already here (one billion Android devices now), and not going anywhere, so we might as well struggle to make it something positive for humanity and not a negative force. I am a Citizen Engineer, and a book bearing that name (Douglas, Papadopoulas, Boutelle 2010) discusses our responsibility:

“Being an engineer today means being far more than an engineer. You need to consider not only the design requirements of your projects but the full impact of your work– from an ecological perspective, an intellectual property perspective, a business perspective, and a sociological perspective, And you must coordinate your efforts with many other engineers, sometimes hundreds of them. In short, we’ve entered an age that demands socially responsible engineering on a whole new scale: The era of the Citizen Engineer.”

La vie est belle, profitez de chaque moment

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