Jun 6, 2013

Why Does a Lack of Technology Surprise Us?

Recently my son asked me what online games I played when I was young.  I wish I had a picture of his face when I told him that such a thing didn't exist when I was growing up.  He had a mixture of surprise and amazement to think someone lived without this experience.  I explained I had stand-alone games (and got nostalgic for Sierra on-line and Lucasarts) like Minecraft, so I wasn't completely deprived.

This made me think about how I react to hearing stories of people with less technology than I have.  You might think of the Amish who choose this path, or stories from missionaries in far-flung places where even clean drinking water is scarce, or just back to the 1960's when we went to the moon on computers that are colossally out of date compared to a modern laptop.  I react the same way my son did: surprise, perhaps a bit of shock that whole groups of people do without the technology I have.

Why is that?  Why surprise?  I'd like to suggest two reasons.

One may be our cultural immersion.  We're so immersed in our own culture and the technology in it that we have difficulty even seeing the technology - it becomes invisible.  Most people in our culture have refrigerators and cell phones, so we don't think about it.  However, when they're gone we're surprised by the things that are suddenly visible by their absence.

Another, related reason may be our assumption of necessity of a particular technology.  We assume that we need a car, a grocery store, a refrigerator, etc. to be able to have eggs.  Not really.  A family in our church has a chicken coop and they have to give away eggs they get so many.  Or think of GPS systems in cars.  Maps and street signs lasted us several decades for navigation on the road.  If we haven't thought it through or seen otherwise, we may not realize that a certain technology isn't necessary and the same task can be done in another way.  Or, maybe that task isn't even necessary!

What about you?  Do you have a different reaction to a lack of technology?  Why?

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