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We are living in an era where technology is pushing back barriers at an increasing rate. Of course, in some way that has always been true. Even with the wheel, there were early adopters. There were also the cynics who thought you’d never find a better alternative to dragging things along. And then there was the third group who would invariably say: “It’s a beautiful thing. Run me through how it works again?”
There are some of us these days who love what technology gives us but are at the same time not able to get over our fear of it. Not in a dystopian “the machines are going to rise up and defeat us” way. More in an “I’m going to press the wrong button and somehow delete all my bank accounts” way. And that second fear is all the more troubling because we’re all aware that tech illiteracy is real.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but as “intelligent” as your coffee machine may get it is never going to take you hostage. Your microwave is not slowly observing you, learning your ways ready to strike while you sleep. But if you don’t know how to use technology properly, you can end up causing damage that will cost a lot to repair. You’re not going to accidentally drain a bank account – there are too many failsafes in place. But you can end up with problems you don’t need.
Are You As Tech Literate As You Think You Are?
Many – probably most – of us like to believe we’re pretty tech-savvy. After all, if you’re reading this online then you’re web-literate for a start. Our parents and even some of our grandparents know how to use Facebook. Even though some of us dearly wish they didn’t.
But being tech-aware is one thing. We know how to use our smartphones and can use them to Tweet, text, make calls and find out the weather or football scores. However, if things start to go wrong, how well equipped are we? Say for example your touch screen becomes unresponsive. All of a sudden you’re yearning for the days of keypads again. Knowing why something has gone wrong, and how to fix it, is important.
Perhaps the main reason for this is that our homes are getting more technologically advanced, not less. Being a technician is going to be a very useful skill to have in years to come. As more and more families get more and more gadgets in their homes, more can go wrong. Some things will always be physically rooted in the house. No-one has yet invented a wholly digital toilet – and we all hope that remains the case. But as time goes on, we’ll be relying on our technological skills to get us out of a bind we’re in.
This Is Starting To Sound Like A Sci-Fi Horror Movie!
Don’t worry. It’s not some Rise of the Machines thing. And you shouldn’t immediately run to the hills and live out the rest of your life in an unconnected log cabin. As time goes on, you just need to approach new technology the same way you approach a new phone or a laptop. Play with it for a little while. Become familiar with how it operates. Don’t try to run before you can walk.
One thing that is hugely important is to accept how little you know. And that’s true for all of us because unless you designed the piece of technology you’re working with, you don’t know it inside out. You can read the manual, but in some cases that will leave you more confused than before. If you’ve bought flat pack furniture any time recently, you’ll be familiar with wordless instructions. This is an innovation designed to simplify things which has, immediately, made things harder. They’re often barely decipherable.
Fortunately, the internet exists. And as we’ve already established, you know how to use that. For just about any product you can buy, there are people who know it inside out and share their knowledge online. So when you have bought a new gadget or appliance, learn what you can about it by experimenting. Anything that is unclear, find an online tech maven to give you the 411.
Also, it pays to listen to, and ask questions of, technicians who come to install or fix things. There are distinct advantages to having a tech setup at home that allows you to control things remotely. You can have a home that clicks into action with nobody there to turn things on. But ask the experts from AutomaticSmartHome.com or similar about anything you’re unclear on. They’re experts for a reason.
I Don’t Want To Have To Rely On Someone Else All The Time!
If you listen and take in what you’re told when things are installed, you’ll rarely have to ask anyone anything. Technology is neither as simple as some people make it sound nor as complicated as it sometimes looks. The more confident you are with it, the more natural it becomes to you. Just don’t ever look for an answer to the question “What does this button do?” by blindly pressing it. Use common sense, and you won’t end up immortalized on http://www.darwinawards.com/.
Some things are probably never going to be fully automated and shouldn’t be. Your dryer is likely never going to clean its own lint trap, and you shouldn’t want it to. Always check it and clean it yourself. If you can switch the dryer on while you’re out of the house, you still probably shouldn’t. But you definitely shouldn’t if there may be anything in the lint trap.
There is only a certain amount of automation that is desirable or possible at the moment. Some things you should always do the old-fashioned way while you’re still at home. And smart home technology is versatile enough to acknowledge that this is how some people want it. You don’t have to connect all your appliances to the control panel – just the ones you’re happy to have integrated.
Is All Of This Development Inevitable?
We are moving further and further into an age where everything is connected, but of course, you don’t have to go with the flow. Certainly, as more and more people go for smart technology, it is where research and development will be directed. But many people will prefer to just have a few key appliances that they operate by themselves. It is neither likely or desirable that we should be marching ever onward towards a fully automated future.
As with so many things, getting to grips with home technology is about finding a happy medium. You don’t have to become Steve Jobs overnight, or at all if you don’t want to. But knowing how to get the best out of your appliances and smart technology will be of benefit to you. It will save you money, and it will make your home more energy efficient. And look at it this way: If grandparents are learning how to share memes on Facebook.com, you can learn how to program an oven.
There will always be hitches and glitches with any product you can buy. Something as relatively simple as a dining room chair can develop a fault, and you may need spares or repair. The same goes for electrical appliances and tech, and that’s why customer service departments exist.
Why Should I Bother With All Of This?
As mentioned at the start of the article, we have always been living in a period of technological advancement. To begin with, some people were probably not quite “there” with fire or the wheel. But those who did embrace those developments found life easier, lived longer, and were able to gather more resources. By embracing and familiarizing yourself with the tech in your home, your life will also be easier.
We come up with a lot of excuses not to do things we should really do. Some of us will think “I’m too old to get to grips with that stuff”. It’s true that it will be easier to learn things the younger you are – but it’s not impossible as you get older. Some of us will think “I prefer to do things myself, so I know they’ll be done right”, and that’s fair. But that’s why you start small with things like programming your DVD to record or switching the coffee pot on.
There is an argument that there is too much automation, in general, these days. And it’s true that as a human race, we are rather prone to over-engineering solutions to fairly simple problems. We’re even prone to coming up with solutions for problems that don’t exist. But done properly, automation can save us time, money and stress. So it makes sense to get on board with it.
And if you’re still worried about the microwave planning your eventual demise, the answer is simple. Get the vacuum cleaner on your side. Those guys are powerful. Even dogs are scared of them.