It is evident that technology has changed our lives and that it also permeates each and every aspect that integrates it. We must constantly acquire new knowledge and skills to keep up with the pace imposed by technological development. The media – Press, radio and television – bombard us with more information than we can use. Even the simplest processes of the daily routine, such as shopping, cooking, washing, etc., are altered as a result of such development.
However, what at first glance seems like a spectacular change may not be any change if analyzed with a little more detail.
Some technological advances are completely unnecessary, and only developed to instigate consumerism. We can identify these as those advances that do not solve a problem that we deal with daily in order to make our lives easier, such as a fridge with wifi or a bag with incorporated speakers. Or, to be more precise, this penetration into our lives does not necessarily imply a change in our consciousness regarding the world around us.
Unnecessary Technological Advances
The oven with Wi-Fi. If what we are looking for is to equip our houses with pure devices that can be controlled through our smartphones, here is an option. In addition to a refrigerator, Samsung also has an oven with a WiFi connection, so that we can control the temperature and enable functions from anywhere in our house, all with the power of our smartphone and a mobile application.
The smart clothes peg, that wars you when the clothes are dry. Someone had the great idea of creating a clothespin full of sensors because according to its creators, we should spend more time doing other more important things instead of waiting for the clothes to dry. Peggy is a “smart” clip that connects to the smartphone through a mobile application, where we will receive notifications when it is about to rain, it is a good time to hang clothes, and even when the washing machine has finished washing and the clothes are ready to hang, well, we have to put the latter in manually.
This clamp has Wi-Fi and humidity, temperature, and lighting sensors, it has a rechargeable battery via micro-USB that offers us an autonomy of up to 5 days in continuous use, so we will have to reserve one more plug at home since now we will have to charge even the clothespins.
The bottle tells us how much water we have left. Hydrate Spark is a bottle that synchronizes via Bluetooth with our smartphone so that through a mobile application we can track the amount of water we have taken throughout the day, week, month, or year. All this is shown with beautiful statistics and graphs, which we can share with the community via social networks because come on, those who would not like to share that they drank 2 liters of water from an application.
But the most fun thing is that the bottle will send us alerts when the water is about to run out and we need to fill it again (as if we could not see the bottle), in addition to the fact that if we are not sure how much water we have left, we can always take out our smartphone, open the app and go to the “available water” section.
These strange inventions have been growing more and more in the last two decades. Since then, many environmental movements have begun to question the viability and rationality of the experimental trend of having the most advanced technology even in objects that do not need it. In contrast to negative Huxleyan utopias, the main concern has been from the beginning the unnecessary consumerism this leads to, rather than the threat of total manipulation. The solution is not to unplug electrical appliances or return to a “natural way of life.” Technology already belongs to our eco structure, and we can’t just turn our backs on it. The solution is to really stop and think twice before seeing a new gadget on Amazon and instantly buying it, knowing we are only going to use it once or twice before realizing that we didn’t actually need it in the first place. In other words, more than technological development as a whole, what needs to be questioned are some particular aspects of it, as well as its internal logic.
The idea of new advances is to provide a better life, a life full of meaning. Needless to say, although you usually do not have a very clear idea of what a better life means, you can know right away if something does not work, if something is missing, or, in this case, if something is not necessary.
The problem that is being discussed here is not technological development as such, just as no one in their right mind would give their consent to the zero-growth project in view of the impoverishment of the world.
Nowadays, the damage caused by a general blackout in a modern city is comparable to that caused by a hurricane in primitive cities. It is not the existence of technology that induces us to reflect on it, analyze it or try to influence it. Human civilization can remain faithful to inherited principles in the midst of the dizzying changes in technology. Questioning if we need to be up to date with all the technology available to us is not necessarily at odds with comfort, and that is what needs to be realized to avoid unnecessary consumerism.
- Glance, D., 2017. Fruit juicers and hair brushes are now part of the Internet of (useless) Things. [online] The Conversation. Available at: <https://theconversation.com/fruit-juicers-and-hair-brushes-are-now-part-of-the-internet-of-useless-things-76921> [Accessed 15 June 2022].
- Harris, J., 2018. Ignore the hype over big tech. Its products are mostly useless | John Harris. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/21/big-tech-products-silicon-valley> [Accessed 16 June 2022].
- We Are Water. 2017. Technology is necessary, but it isn´t everything. [online] Available at: <https://www.wearewater.org/en/technology-is-necessary-but-it-isn-t-everything_280221> [Accessed 16 June 2022].
- Baldwin, A., 2018. [online] Available at: <https://www.ey.com/en_gl/digital/if-you-don-t-use-technology-to-innovate-will-you-become-obsolete> [Accessed 18 June 2022].
- Wardynski, D., 2019. Technology and Society: How Technology Changed Our Lives. [online] Brainspire.com. Available at: <https://www.brainspire.com/blog/technology-and-society-how-technology-changed-our-lives> [Accessed 18 June 2022].