Years ago, Holmes & Rahe crafted the first formal measure of the impact of stress on people. At the top of their list are events like the death of your life partner, a divorce, serious illness and the like, all the way down to something simple like getting a parking ticket. The valid notion underpinning the stress measurement scale is that each time we encounter change, we have to adapt. When we're in charge of the change it's fine. Theoretically (unless your partner's nagging you to get it done) to mow or not to mow your grass shouldn't cause stress. Because it's a decision or action under your control. It's the things over which we don't have control that cause stress. Today, more than anything, it's the speed of technological and sociological change that is a significant stress driver for developed economy inhabitants.
Some examples: There's an emerging right-wing political movement in Europe and Australia. Based largely on a racist, anti-immigration platform. Recently, people who detest French President Jacques Chirac had to vote for him in order to prevent rabid right-winger Jean-Marie Le Pen from becoming French President. An unthinkable prospect but it nearly happened!
On the medical front, bio-engineering permits astonishing medical interventions. Cryo-therapy (liquid nitrogen) having failed on sun damage lesions (courtesy of the then SADF) on my face, I've just finished using a high-tech cream which attacks only the sun damaged cells. Thermal scans of the brain can tell us unequivocally if someone is lying. Vocal patterns measured on commercially available software running via the modem on your computer can do the same as you're talking to someone. It's being used in fraud and corruption prevention around the world.
Ozone pumped over decaying tooth enamel renders bacteria inert and reduces the need for drilling. An algorithm 'reads' your dog's bark and via a little liquid crystal screen on Rover's collar, can tell you whether he's bored, hungry, wants to play or is afraid. Mobile phones have irretrievably changed the lives of millions of people. International media networks allow us to track what's going on around the world in a matter of minutes. Personal digital assistants (PDA's) and notebook computers haven't put more time in your life. All they do is let you do even more in the little time available.
When the Americans finished bombing Afghanistan, entrepreneurs in Kabul didn't plant veggie gardens; they started building satellite dishes so they could share in what's going on around the world. Hungry people maybe, but even more info-hungry.
People bring class-action lawsuits against fast food vendors and cigarette manufacturers, airlines and reality TV show producers. All in an attempt to avoid taking responsibility for their own choices and their lives. It's always easier to blame someone or something else. Genes are increasingly being indicted for everything from alcoholism to hyperactivity and over-eating. In many instances if we adequately managed our senses, we'd save ourselves the trouble of looking for external 'causes.'
In fulfillment of futurist and author John Naisbitt's 'High-tech, high-touch' predictions of years ago, we're choosing to die not in ICU's, but in hospices or in our own homes. Computer driven customer relationship management (CRM) programs notwithstanding, good old fashioned customer contact is still the best service differentiator in business. In fact, it's so rare that we consider it exceptional when we experience it. Companies receive awards for transparency and corporate governance instead of merely running to an ethical script by default.
Disease travels around the globe and spreads in twenty four hours by piggy-backing on aircraft passengers. Surveys show that more and more people feel that they're not living fulfilled lives. A recent BBC survey of viewers and listeners indicated that ninety two percent of British people felt they were in the wrong (and unrewarding) job or career. A terrifying statistic.
These are just some of a myriad examples revealing how our world and therefore our lives are being affected by technological advance and the speed of change. It's essential that we take charge of the facets of change over which we do have control. That we make decisions about which uncontrollable ones we allow to influence our lives. That we choose to live using change and technology to our advantage. That we don't passively allow our lives to be dictated to and driven by, technological change. Use it. Don't let it use you.