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Is Technology Taking Over Our Lives?

Not too long ago I was on the phone about putting my mobile on to roaming, so I could use it in whilst in Ireland. It soon occurred to me just how much these people know about you. For instance, all I had to give them was my post code and the operator was able to give me more information about myself than a metre of DNA. All of a sudden I was being asked to confirm that I lived at Stuart court, in Andover.

'And what number is that?' asked the girl.

'Thirteen,' I replied.

'That's right,' she confirmed.

Well of course it's right, I should know I live there.

The girl then asked for my password. Well I wasn't even aware that I had set one up. 'Err, I didn't know I had one!' I replied, somewhat dimly.

'Hmm!' she replied and then told me what it was. Duh! I could have been anyone. I was then passed on to another operator because her computer was down. Well if she was able to know so much about me from a computer that wasn't working properly, then I dread to think what sort of things she could tell me about myself on a working computer.

The new operator then proceeded to tell me that I had to change my phone from Pay As You Go to a monthly billing account, where they would collect the bill via a direct debit from my personal bank account. In order to debit my bank account each month with the charges all I had to do was give them two recent addresses (of which I'm sure he already had), my bank account number and sort code and it was all done.

'Don't I have to sign anything?' I asked, displaying my obvious ignorance in such matters.

'No,' replied the operator, sympathetically. 'It is a paperless contract.'

Of course, how silly of me. It seems that I'm not needed for anything whatsoever relating to my money or personal business anymore. So, if you want to know all about me and also access my personal bank account then all you have to do is phone my mobile company and give them my post code. I'm joking of course, but it is quite scary how much these people know about you. It's also quite scary how these companies can take your money off of you without your written authority. Mind you it is comforting to know that should I ever forget my pin number when trying to get some money from the ATM in a severely intoxicated state one Saturday night, all I have to do is phone my mobile network.

What actually fuels this accelerated growth in technology is, ironically, mankind's laziness. It can't be helped because we are just lazy by nature. It's in our nature to find easier, more efficient ways of doing things. Notice how when there is a path going round a square of grass, then there will be a manmade path trodden across that grass where people, instead of taking a few more seconds to go round, have instead cut across. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not having a go. I do it myself. What I'm trying to say is that we are generally lazy, and it's this laziness that has advanced us technologically over the recent years. If you think about it, there really isn't a need for the average person to have a mobile phone. Unless you are a trader or a businessman I'm sure that what you have to say could easily wait until you get home to a landline. But we like the convenience of it all. We like the fact that we no longer have to be bored on a train and can now phone a friend and bore them also by saying things like 'Hi I'm on the train.' Or that we no longer have to suffer the agonising boredom of waiting in line for five minutes for something and can make the time more interesting by sending someone a pointless text message. The same could be said for the fact that I didn't have to bother with the hassle of paperwork to setup my direct debit. It's also great that you don't have to bother remembering to go to the ATM and get money all the time, all you have to do is produce a piece of plastic to pay for your shopping. But have you noticed lately just how the people who take your card and swipe it, then either give it straight back to you, or not even bother to compare your signature against the one on the card?

The point of all this is that although we are being swept up daily by these technological wonders which are helping to make our lives more easier and therefore freeing us from all the mundane hassles that we would rather do without, we really should take the time to think about whether this is actually improving the quality of our lives. Sure it's useful that when you are in the clothes shop you can phone your mother and ask if dad would like a navy blue sweater with red stripes that is two sizes too small for him for his birthday; or can phone your wife to tell her to delay dinner because you are stuck in traffic; or can even phone on the way to the pub to tell your friends that you are running late (as if they didn't already know that). It's also good to know, if you are leaving in two days time like I was, that you wont have to bother waiting for a form to come in the post for you to sign and send back because your signature is no longer needed. Technology can do it all for you, leaving you with lots of time on your hands to phone your friends for no particular reason other than to pass all this free time you now have because you no longer need to go to the bank and get money out for the shopping; or fill in forms to authorise companies to take money from your account on a monthly basis; or any of the other things that would fill up your otherwise empty day. Just remember this, at the same time as you are sat in the pub welcoming these ways of facilitating methods of payment, or ways for us to talk to each other, we are also slowly handing over control of our finances to machines that are actually making it easier for others to help themselves to our money, and who will soon more than likely tell you things about yourself that you had completely forgotten, or didn't know in the first place. So I ask you, is technology taking over our lives?

I'll leave you to decide that while I go down the pub. But first I have to phone Virgin Mobile and ask them if they know where I left my wallet.

While we are on this daring subject, I would like to point out a major oversight in the manufacture of mobile phone accessories. The makers, in their infinite wisdom, saw fit to make the Hands Free Kit. This wonderful piece of equipment, if used, can stop the driver from veering across the road, whilst telling his wife that he is just ten minutes away from home, into another driver who is busy using his phone and not able to maneuver out of the way in time. But the manufacturers were obviously oblivious to the dangers of text messaging while walking. Now how many times have you observed people walking along the street, head down and firmly fixed on that tiny screen, finger rapidly punching out a reply to their friend, mother or whomever, that really could have waited a few more minutes? Or they could have at least sat down to do it. Instead they continue walking along oblivious to anything in their path or the fact that a road full of cars is about to suddenly be underfoot. One of these days, and I am surprised it hasn't already happened, there will be a spate of injuries caused by this that will inevitably result in the users suing the mobile phone companies for not providing them with an Eyes Free Kit.

But I'm sure this warning will never be heeded, and instead the companies will continue to concentrate their efforts on how to make the phones smaller, resulting in the ultimate of ironies wherein a man will wander into the pub and proudly place his phone down on the bar as he drinks his pint. A second man will enter, stand next to him and think, as he orders his pint, 'Ha! Mine's smaller than yours.'

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