Richard Ord: Why life isn’t better now than when we were young

editorial image

“Will you concede,” my 17-year-old son put it to me, “that the world today is far better than it was when you were young?”

He appeared to be hanging his argument on technology.

“I mean,” he continued. “Compared to today, it must have been like living in the Dark Ages. No mobile phones, no internet, no flat screen TVs, no Facebook.”

He had a point. There was time when if I wanted see what people were eating and drinking on their nights out I had to press my face up at the restaurant window. Now I just click on Facebook and up pops a photograph of their grub and bottle of fizz.

That’s if I can get my mobile phone to work. I admit that I’m not exactly tech savvy.

I greet technology in much the same way as the prehistoric monkeymen in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey approached that giant black obelisk. Ie. With great trepidation and much grunting and beating of chest.

The similarities don’t end there. In Stanley Kubrick’s movie, within a short time of touching the futuristic structure, the monkeymen are apparently ‘enlightened’. This is shown on screen by them picking up bones and using them as weapons to beat the living daylights out of other monkeymen who hadn’t touched the big black oblong.

Touching the black oblong we know today as the mobile phone has much the same effect on me. Rather than being enlightened, I am invariably driven to prehistoric monkeyman violence. I dunno, maybe that was the point the movie was trying to make. I’ll have to look it up. There’s bound to something on the internet to say I am right. If not. I’ll just post it online as a fact.

Has technology improved life? Certainly, everyone on Facebook looks happier. In fact, they look fantastic. And what a great time they’re all having.

Thing is, they look too good and are too happy. What a beautiful place it would be if everyone actually looked like their Facebook profile pictures.

And the suggestion that technology has improved our lives is on dodgy ground.

Where are the servant robots tending our every need?

When I do my shop at Sainsbury’s, technology should be making my life simple and satisfactory.

Tomorrow’s World (remember that TV show?) had us believing personal robots would tend our every need. I should be being whizzed round Sainsbury’s in a mini hovercraft complete with robotic arms grabbing boxes of Weetos and weighing bananas. Instead, technology is employed to get me to do all the work. Self service checkouts have machines forcing us to queue up until we’re granted permission to barcode check the goods we want to purchase, weigh the bananas and pack the bags! “Have you swiped your Nectar card?” is the full extent of conversation with technology. It’s one-way only, and the cheeky machine knows damn well I haven’t swiped it.

I relayed this answer to my son, and he was stunned into silence. Or so I thought.

When I looked up, he was nose-deep on his phone, earplugs in, watching the top 10 Craziest Supermarket Punch-ups on YouTube. He didn’t speak, but he had answered the original question.