Technology has changed the world faster than many of us could have imagined, and is continuing to change the world. Henry Adams envisioned the change technology would have on the world on his trip to the Paris Exposition. In his autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams, Adams writes about his trip to the Paris Exposition and everything he observed. He sees the dynamo, a machine that produced electricity, which Adams described as powerful, significant, and profound. He did not fully understand the power of the dynamo, but he felt that the unleashing of the power would change the future for mankind.
He compares the dynamo to Christianity; just as Christian ideas changed the world and the way people viewed it, so to technology, as symbolized by the dynamo, would change the world. One such technological advance that has had a major impact on the world is the invention of cell phones. Since its invention in 1973, the cell phone has developed into a ubiquitous part of our society. It has become the proverbial “fifth limb” – an unavoidable, and highly necessary attachment to almost everyone’s body. In fact, the cell phone has impacted all tiers of society in both positive and negative ways.
It has changed the way individuals relate to themselves, to their immediate surroundings, and to the world at large. Cell phones give individuals a sense of security. People feel safer knowing that in case of an emergency they have the ability to contact help. Individuals are able to call for help when they see traffic accidents, a crime in progress, or when they need assistance when their car breaks down. In fact, ninety percent of cell phone users surveyed reported that owning cell phones made them feel safer(Hanson,11).
The security benefits of cell phones are not purely psychological, The 2005 E911 law requires all cell phones to come equipped with global positioning tracking software. This helps 911 easily locate accident scenes. If someone has an emergency and do not know where they are, the police are able to easily locate them using the built-in cell phone GPS system and come to their assistance (Smith). Federal regulators approved of a plan to use text messages to create a nationwide emergency alert system.
Now the federal communication commission can alert the public about emergencies accurately and promptly through cell phones. The plan outlines three types of text messages. The first one will be alerts from the president about terrorist attacks or other threats to United States safety. The second will be “imminent threats” including natural disasters, and shooting. The third will be for child abductions. They are hoping that this service will be in effect by 2010. Because the uncertainty surrounding disasters is often more disturbing than the actual disaster, this system will give people a greater sense of security.
Americans will feel more secure in general because they will know that they will find out about danger right away (New York times). Additionally, cell phones have given people greater control over their lives. People are able to make calls whenever and wherever it is most convenient for them. Work is no longer confined to the office. Businessmen can go on vacation and not be tied down to their desks. Mothers are able to leave the house without worrying that their children will be unable to reach them. Cell phone users have more flexibility in movement because they are not restricted to locations with landlines.
Plans to improve cell phones continue to advance. One such development is the future use of cell phones to help grant independence to disabled people. There are thousands of things blind people can’t do because of their sightlessness. The cell phone has helped to alleviate some of the problems that they face. For example, blind people can not go shopping by themselves, because food labels are not written in brail. A cell phone add-on can help a blind person read labels. After he snaps a picture of the label, a digitized voice from the phone reads the label out loud.
Besides for reading labels, the phone can also read pages of a printed text. There have been reading machines around for a long time, but cell phones make it much more convenient because they are so small and easy to carry around and are already in use by the disabled people (De Lara and Ebling). The mobile ASL project is developing software to let the deaf use their cell phones to communicate using sign language. Although the cell phone has large screens and cameras, the quality is not high enough for people to communicate through sign language.
The Mobile ASL is developing a new video encoder that will be able to track hand, arm, and face movements at a high quality (De Lara and Ebling). Cell phones have tremendously helped individuals by helping make them safer, giving them control over their lives, and independence. However, they have at the same time negatively affected them. Cell phones have invaded on individuals’ privacy. The same GPS tracking system that helps accident victims can also be used for parents to track their children. Parents are able to track when their child leaves home, where she goes and at what speed.
Parents are also able to set up an electronic alert that can warn them if their children go to a forbidden place. It is true that such technology has major benefits for both the parents and children; however, it also diminishes the child’s privacy. Children need privacy and independence from their parents. Such monitors can do more harm than good to children (Balough). Employees are also able to invade on their workers’ privacy by using the GPS system to track them. After issuing company cell phones, employees can monitors their workers during break, lunch hours, and potentially after their work is complete.
Privacy experts say that said there are no laws that require employers to let the workers know they are being tracked via satellite. They also said they are not able to guarantee workers they will be able to turn off their GPS technology after they have left work (Balough). Privacy experts also say that government can also get access to GPS data and overstep our privacy. In a day of government “Big Brother” scares, citizens are understandably leery of any additional form of government supervision. Additionally, if this data is made available, skilled hackers may be able to obtain access to it.
Stalkers and predators can no doubt find ways to use people-tracking systems to advance their nefarious plans. It is questionable whether the GPS technology really is worth its benefits if it robs us of the basic human need for privacy (Balough). Although the cell phone has given people empowerment, often the cell phone starts controlling others making them slaves to their technology. The feeling of not knowing when someone is going to call you and demand your full attention is stressful. Humans are not made to be available all the time.
Many cell phone users admitted they became dependent on always being available, and found it hard to turn off their phone and ignore their ringing phone, even when they weren’t able to speak. One person reported, “Always being available results in lack of independence. It is like having an electronic ankle chain”(Sirkka and Lang 6). The cell phone has also enslaved workers and employers to their workplace. When the cell phone came out most employers were happy to welcome the cell phone into their work. Their company benefited from the cell phone tremendously, increasing their productivity and making their work more flexible.
However, at the same time the cell phone enslaved their lives. Many employers and workers reported that the cell phone took away from their personal time, increased their work pressure, and have made it hard for them to disconnect from work after work hours. It made them feel that they should always be working twenty four seven. Workers complained that they can not turn off their cell phone, because their boss would get upset if they were not able to get a hold of their workers when they need them ( Sirkka and Lang 3).
Cell phone users have complained that cell phones took simplicity out of their lives. Mobile phones have created more problems that did not exist until the use of cell phones came out. Even the smallest worry of having to have a bag to carry the cell phone with, and an extra charged battery or charger on you in case the battery ran out. It creates a fear of loosing their money they paid for it (Sirrka and Lang 7). The cell phone has impacted the individual in both positive and negative ways. It has given them a sense of security, control, and independence.
However, at the same time the cell phone robbed them from their privacy, and overpowered them making them more dependent and less secure. Cell phones have also impacted the way people relate to each other in both positive and negative ways. Now, it is much more convenient to keep in touch and organize social meetings. However, cell phones have stolen the quality time friends used to spend with each other. They have also turned private conversations into public knowledge. It is much easier to be in touch with other people with the use of the cell phone.
Friends can still keep in touch with each other no matter where they are. They are also more likely to call one another, because they can maximize their time that would have normally been wasted. For example, if someone is waiting on a long line in a store, they can take advantage of their time and call a friend (Sirkka and Lang 10). Cell phones have also made it easier to organize social activities. Friends are able to plan meetings in advance, and refine their plans regardless of where they are. If they are running late, all they have to do is pick up the phone and update each other.
With the cell phone, meetings do not have to be planned in advance; they can be planned on the spur of the moment (Sirkka and Lang 9). Still, Cell phones have also negatively impacted the way humans interact with each other. It is human nature to need close personal relationships with other people. When communicating with someone face-to-face, it creates a sense of “connection” with the other person. This close connection is difficult and almost impossible to create over a telephone. With the invention of the cell phone, many people choose to speak on their cell phone instead of speaking in person.
This can have a major effect on relationships (Hanson 79). The cell phone can also interrupt quality time spent with friends and family. Typically, when a call disrupts a conversation the caller will stop their present conversation, and answer the phone engaging in a new one. Once they finish their conversation on the phone, it is hard to go back and pick up the previous one. After meeting with his friend one person reported, “ I am there in person … but it feels that it would have been better to call and not bother to come in person”(Sirkka and Lang 10).