in Language Technology, Our People

The world today is a place of ever-present communications systems and it’s easy to forget what life was like before we became constantly connected. While we here at Simply CSOFT were wondering about this, one of our own took it upon himself to go cell-less and to document the experience in this special, two-part edition. Read on for this series exciting conclusion!

UnPlugged

48 Hours In

I went to go see my friend, Tom, today. I thought he’d be the perfect person to talk to about being unplugged because he lives way out in the countryside and goes camping more often than anyone else I know. Once I started telling him about this piece, though, he laughed. Tom apparently uses his smartphone’s compass when camping, its flashlight at night in the woods, and its camera for nature photos; turns out Tom is a techie.

Driving home at night along dusty, unlit country roads, I longed for the robotic voice of my GPS.

The Final Hurdle

It was (and still is) hot and humid. I spent the majority of the day in the yard cutting down trees, weeding in the garden, and pruning hedges. I stopped in the afternoon and walked down to a creek in the woods. In the shade of the trees with an icy lemonade, it was easy to enjoy being free of electronic disturbances. Starting back toward the house, something pinched me in the ankle. I looked down in time to see a wasp alight upon my calf where he replanted his stinger. I swatted at him but he landed on my hand and stung my thumb. I dropped my drink and started shaking my hand so he landed on my opposite arm and stung me again. Then I began frantically waving my arms and running home but he got me once more on the neck and – just for good measure – from there made a surprising trip up my shorts to bless my backside. On the way in, I struggled to remember whether it was baking soda or baking powder that you’re supposed to use for stings and, throbbing all over, succumbed, knowing only Google could help me. And so – just over 5 hours shy of my goal – I broke. Google came to my rescue explaining that either baking powder or soda work for alleviating the discomfort of bee stings but it’s vinegar for wasps.

Related:  Machine translation is improving, but can it replace humans?

At the end of (almost) 3 days, I have to say I’m surprised at my technological dependence. There were moments when I was gardening – an activity as untouchable by technology as any – that I wished I could Google the best growing conditions for different plants. With a smartphone, I hold more computing power in my pocket than it took to put men on the Moon; there is more knowledge at the tip of my finger than in most libraries and every day this pocket-sized device becomes more useful. It’s a camera with a near-infinite roll of pictures, a flashlight, a compass, a map, and a personal assistant. But all that functionality has a price: the beauty of being in the moment. With my phone, I seem to forget to stop and smell the flowers. It’s easy not to notice billowing, cottony clouds and friendly strangers when an entertainment and information hub is in hand. This technology is incredible. It can add something to nearly any activity and opens the world to us. But we still need moments that are tech-free and unconnected to appreciate the world in front of us and the people in it.

I started this project thinking the fewer electronics in my life the better. In reality, there is a balance where technology enriches our experiences without obscuring them. So don’t throw out your phone just yet. Just put it down – on silent – and look around. Undistracted, you might just find the whole world right under your nose.

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