“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them,” Aldous Huxley, A Brave New World.
Living in an always-moving ever-connected city, it’s easy to expect that connectivity is as accessible as a picking up a pack of smokes at the gas station. But the reality is there remain numerous places across America where the dream of a connected world is merely a vision of the future. I spent the past few weeks travelling across the Great American West, along the way encountering the quietness brought forth by a lack of Internet or cellular connectivity. While welcome and refreshing, it comes at a cost, as a majority of technologies’ benefits cease to exist.
Travelers have come to expect Wi-Fi on planes; however, taking Amtrak across the West you discover there is no Wi-Fi and often times no cellular service. Quickly your smartphone becomes just a watch and a camera, and little more. Your Facebook posts must wait till Grand Junction, Truckee, or Salt Lake City. And as the trip continues, sitting at breakfast in Big Trees Lodge Yosemite and planning the next excursion, you discover your phone’s connection can’t support maps to determine how far away your next destination will be. Luckily, this lodge acknowledges and solves the lack of cellular service, sort of, by placing two pay phones on the deck out back. It was the placement of those phones that sparked the idea for this technology blog.
A dystopian view of the future would have you believe that the commoditization of technology will serve to blunt original thought or remove reason for one to think on their own. However, that morning at the lodge, instead of mapping out a trip during breakfast, we spoke with each other and discussed the next adventure. While I have a great appreciation for time spent unconnected, it is a choice. Connectivity has become part of the fabric of our society and with it many benefits that advance our quality of life. Much is gained by taking time to set the smart device aside and much would be lost if technology were removed from the social equation.
Looking ahead, America’s broadband footprint is expanding, breaking down the barriers of distance and time, and allowing residents of rural areas to participate in economic and civic life far beyond their geographic region. We’re also on the fringes of smart city development that could help alleviate traffic congestion, reducing commuting time as well as carbon emissions. Then there are the simple benefits that tend to be forgotten until times when your phone-based maps fail to load and navigate you through the mountains. Technology advancement adjusts societal norms, and is an incubator, not inhibitor of human creativity.
Now, back home for a few days, I’m already in search of my next adventure into an un-connected world. Embrace the technology, add a comment to this blog or email me some recommendations on where to holiday next. Machu Picchu, Iceland, Nepal…?