Sunday, 14 November 2010

Flying at the speed of light

So having just returned from Africa for a much needed two weeks away from it all, I have a foreboding sense of struggling to get back up to speed. 

Whether third world or not, the absence of the technology and commercialism I have just floated through has made me consider just how fast our technological lives make us thunder through our days at the speed of light. Turning off the iPhone, leaving the computers behind, forgoing Internet connections, and visiting a world that does not oblige our impatience for service has been very eye opening. 

Progress? I'm not entirely convinced.

Because we have the tools at hand to be quicker, more efficient, more accurate, I somehow struggle to take these as reasons for our impatience at life. There are some things that many of us would never consider rushing... Cooking roast potatoes, savouring the first beer, soaking up some culture in a museum, idling down a waterway in a canal boat...

Is it then that we only race through things we don't enjoy doing? In some ways that works - I am always happier to get home quicker, access, use and process files quicker, find research faster, get in touch with colleagues quicker. However, despite our rush, I still find the old fashioned lines of communication are often 10 times more effective. Efficiency, speed and technology is then a disconnection of humanistic tendencies and customs in light of an emotionless and frustrated race for... Perfection?

I do discuss this in some jest, as I AM writing on my iPhone, using my super fast cable broadband, waiting for my new BBC iPlayer program to download before watching it whilst my solid state harddrive silently crunches through it. But these are my tools, and these are my chosen devices to aid me in my Westernised whirlwind of working. What I have been asked to recognise is that life without them (and I don't mean without the cool geeky stuff, I mean sans et al), despite being very different, has been 100% enjoyable. I didn't miss the status updates on Facebook, I didn't miss the latest and greatest from my eagerly followed tweeters, I didn't miss the daily emails offering me this deal, that saving, the latest developments or the ground breaking news stories. In a blissfully ignorant way, I truly didn't care.

For me that is the epitome of a holiday. People who think they are so important they must work throughout their break are either megalomaniacs or not very good at their jobs - enough to safely wrap up a few matters for a short space of time. But Africa was one step up from that. There was no Internet, the power did frequently cut out, when the water stopped you had the choice of the sea or some more deodorant! And so... My technology driven partner and I read. Ate. Swam. Ummm, ah yes, drank. And that was about it. I have never slept so well, enjoyed others company more, relished an early morning swim or felt as revived. And all because they simply didn't have the tools that we don't take a second though about here in Europe. 

Clearly this is a tale of polar opposites, and neither one can be argued as the right or wrong way to be. What I hope it does give, however, is a sense of balance between the two. I still fly through London on my motorbike trying to beat the traffic, still moan when servers fail and will continue to hate areas with no 3G network. But what I have taken out of this is a more lackadaisical attitude to our technoville wherever and whenever I can. What do I do of an evening? I cook from scratch, I open some wine, I invariably clean something, and then I read. 

This week I am in deep sub space with a race of clones who are under threat of extinction. Is the Internet working? Is someone announcing a ground breaking innovation in cloud computing? Has Wagner been voted of the X-Factor? (oh ok I do care about that one!) Between the hours of 7pm and 11pm, honestly, I couldn't care less. 

Go on, turn of twitter... I dare you :)

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