Friday, 13 Dec 2019

Technology Good, Technology Bad

Writing for EzineArticles brings me face-to-face with the realisation of how much technology has advanced in my own lifetime – and that’s just so far! I was born in 1961, so I reckon I’m about half way through my life – oh yes, I do intend to become a centenarian!

I remember the dawn of the computer age – before “home computers”; before video games; way before the internet! Specifically I remember, when I was 16 years old, attending a seminar given for all the kids my age in my home town about how computers would revolutionise our lives. We were told we could expect that they would do things so much more quickly and easily that we should expect to never have full time jobs, and that we should plan our careers on the basis that we would have lots of leisure time to fill! Well, part of that vision came true. Computers do things very quickly! BUT what happened to the “very easily” part? AND where is all the leisure time I was supposed to look forward to?

The reality is that because technology enables us to do things more quickly, we simply do more. We pack more work into our lives instead of allowing rest and relaxation to fill the extra time. Life has become more complicated it seems, and we experience more, not less, stress. And stress, we are so often told, is a major contributor to illness: some sources claiming that up to 70% of all illness is in some way related to stress! (Though, in reality, meaningful statistics are still sketchy on this subject there is clear evidence that work-related stress is on the increase.)

In enjoying technology-led pastimes – computer games, social media, online chat – we move our bodies much less than a few decades ago. We are increasingly sedentary. And that, we are told, is a major contributory factor to the rapidly rising incidence of overweight and obesity, which is reportedly reaching “epidemic” proportions and increasingly linked with serious illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer.

It isn’t just information technology that has advanced at a massive pace in the past 50 or so years either. Food technology has revolutionised the way we eat. My formative years coincide with some of the earliest “convenience foods”: remember the dehydrated Vesta Curry? Boil-in-the-bag fish, doused in ready-made sauces? Angel Delight and other powdered desserts in foil sachets? Take a walk through any modern supermarket today and you’ll see how much shelf space is taken up with manufactured/processed foods, products containing artificial ingredients, chemically modified foods – reduced fat, de-alcoholised, hydrogenated. Now, it emerges, processed foods are the least healthy options: in 2009 Which Magazine demonised breakfast cereals, suggesting they realistically belonged in the biscuit or confectionary aisles due to their disproportionally high sugar content; in 2012 Harvard University branded manufactured low-fat foods dangerous, calling for an end to “the low-fat myth”; in 2013 processed meats are now finding notoriety, recently reported as a major cause of serious illnesses.

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