Editorial: Looking into the black mirror

Do you ever look around, only to find yourself surrounded by people staring at their phones?

OK, maybe that doesn’t happen all that often, and this isn’t a tirade against technology, which has certainly done more good than harm, especially all the communications channels opened up through the development of the internet, and all the developments built on that.

But we do spend an awful lot of time staring into those little black mirrors. If you keep an eye out, you might even notice a growing number of people who seem to have had their smartphones surgically attached. OK, maybe not, but they don’t seem to be able to put it down either — it’s always in their hands, whether they are actively using it or not.

It’s not just teenagers of course. Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have become an integral part of our culture. And really, there is no turning back, even though we are really just at the beginning of this particular trend — smartphones, after all, are only about 10 years old.

Imagine how sophisticated these devices will be in another decade, and imagine how that will reshape society. What’s your mental picture of the future? People wandering the streets of the city, cut off from their real surroundings as they move through an augmented vision of reality chasing Pokemon, while texting friends and sharing photos of their breakfast to Facebook, endlessly?

Or, do you picture a world where creativity and engagement are flourishing thanks to the complete democratization of communication these tiny devices could bring to the world, a world where politicians are no longer needed because we are all making decisions together in one grand forum?

The reality, of course, is somewhere in between. The world will be what we make it, so instead of railing against technology, maybe the discussion should be about how do we, the people, use it to shape our future. Or do we continue to let mega-corporations and governments dictate the shape of things to come?

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