Through my two trips to Africa this summer I've fallen even more in love with technology than I already was. I am by no means a huge techno-geek...I mean I don't write code or need to have the latest and greatest gadget out there, but I have a deep appreciation and fondness for the advancements that modern technology has brought to us mere humans.
While some like to lament the loss of romantic ideals of yester-year, I have little time to live in the past because I'm too busy marveling at the present and future. Where some cry for the loss of process and caring of letter writing and cherishing the feel of newsprint in your fingers, I am celebrating the fact that I can communicate with a person in the middle-of-nowhere rural Africa by simply picking up my phone or turning on my computer. Sure it is nice to think about "the way things used to be" but I think it's even nicer to think about the tremendous advances that have been achieved because of technology. I am firmly Darwinist in this regard. If letter writing and newspapers don't' survive then it's because they couldn't keep up. Survival of the fittest man. While those things may have been nice, we shouldn't keep them around just so we can be quaint. If they have a purpose and can keep up with the times, then great. If not, see you later alligator.
Some of the greatest advances in development have happened because of technology. One of the first real uses of microcredit financing stemmed from financing. Women in rural villages were given small loans so that they could buy cell phones and pre-paid credit and then turned around and became the communication hub for their villages, thereby connecting their village to the outside world and making money to support their families in the process. Economic development plus gender empowerment for women all because of a cell phone. How can you bemoan the spread of technology when stories such as this are so amazing?
Think of all the people that can stay in touch because of technology. When people leave a village they can have better contact with their home communities and hopefully keep in better touch with their roots. Some of the projects we have going on in Nigeria with TMF would not be possible if we didn't have cell phones and email. We can be in touch and help provide healthcare services to people as if we were right around the corner. If we can't be there to help in person all we have to do is make a few calls or send a few emails and the care is there. Am I willing to give up the tactile experience of a letter for something this fantastic? You bet!
I think as technology evolves we need to evolve our views of meaning-making and connection. If you thought that the experience of a letter was so fantastic, surely you can an email just as good. If not, think of ways that you can supplement the email, maybe with a surprise gift or something. It's not emails that are to blame, but perhaps your lack of effort and creative thinking about ways to re-create the feelings and experience that you felt in writing and sending that letter.
I have lots more to say about technology but these thoughts go off in tangential ways so I will save them for subsequent blog posts. For now, I'll say, thanks for reading my technology driven blog post :)