Technology connects to the world in an uncommon way


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Posted Thursday, October 7, 2010 - 7:24pm

As technology advances, we gain the benefits it brings as well as its negative effects. More often, I see newspaper columns filled with the terrible consequences of technology, that technology is ripping apart society or is causing this generation to be dumber than the last. These accusations may be true, but I will save those for a later argument. I wish to focus on the benefits of technology, but with examples you may never have considered before. I want to give instances of how we shaped technology to the forms of our societies and how we make technology meaningful.

We all know that it is possible to become addicted to drugs, alcohol, food, tv, video games and so forth. But did you know that we can subconsciously become addicted to sound? Some big city folk might nod their heads knowing that they require the sounds of sirens, honking, the strange hum of noise pollution to put them to sleep, while others prefer the sound of crickets and other night creatures to lay them at rest. Personally, the quiet drumming of the fan on my humidifier sends me to sleep (and keeps me from bleeding to death through my nose.)

The point is we need sound (I guess those who are deaf don’t, but I will not get into that) and because of this need, sound has become an important part of our memory system. In movies you will see a couple dancing, the song fades and a few notes of the next song later sparks a conversation of one saying to the other, “This is our song! Do you remember?” To which the other (in a good cheesy way) smiles and begins to reminisce about the time they met or to relive the wedding. Familiar sounds spark memories of the scenery as well as emotions felt during that past event. The alarm on my alarm clock reminds me of horrible times: waking up early, school, homework, finals, papers due, etc. I get the feeling of panic and despair when I hear it but it does wake me up in the morning.

Some restaurants have found that if they play slow music, the customers will eat slower and will eat more and Las Vegas found that its revenue from gambling fell by 24 percent when sound was removed from the slot machines. We need sound. So when we need sound to the point of addiction, what is the most addicting sound? A study by Buyology Inc., and Elias Arts of New York found that it is not the sound of a vibrating phone, ringtone, ATM machine or any commercial jingle, but the sound of a giggling infant. Sound technology has shown that technology is vital in recording sounds that act as triggers for our memories and also that we are not truly addicted to technology, but to ourselves as a social species.

Technology helped us in the “war effort” for as long as war has been around. Gun powder, missiles, gas, tanks, and the atomic bomb have proven to be ample tide-turners. But what about a pair of dentures? Recently, some false teeth were auctioned off for £15,200 (the funny currency sign should give away the auction’s geographical location). These were no ordinary dentures.

These teeth famously branded as the fake teeth that “helped win World War II” preserved the most famous lisp in British radio history. This lisp acted as a familiar sound that calmed and assured a nation much like Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats here in the States. Winston Churchill’s cries of “fight them on the beaches” and “we shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire” acted as the reassurance the poor island needed at that time while his lisp gave his people a familiar voice that put courage in their hearts.

Those around Churchill knew how the war was going by how far he would throw his dentures across the room. Those teeth received so much wear and tear that when Churchill’s dentist was drafted, Churchill tore up the draft papers and told the man that he could best serve his country by staying in England and fixing Churchill’s dentures.

This is one for all those WoW (World of Warcraft) diehards out there. On September 13, 2005, a glitch in the grossly popular World of Warcraft computer game caused a “virtual plague”. The Corrupted Blood Incident was caused by, as Wikipedia explains, “a hit points draining and contagious debuff spell ‘Corrupted Blood’.” This spell was cast by a game boss called Hakkar in a newly added dungeon location in the Warcraft game called Zul’Gurub.

The spell was meant to last a short time and was only to exist in this area, but it spread out of Zul’Gurub through “teleportation spells”. The spell spread throughout the virtual Warcraft world killing low-level characters and causing frustration with the higher levels. This caused in-game panic as players did what they could to keep their characters from becoming infected. The dense cities in the game became ghost towns and many just stopped playing. It took many game “patches” (glitch fixers) and many a rebooting of the game world to finally kill the epidemic.

Because World of Warcraft is played worldwide by over 2 million players, the Corrupted Blood Incident and the reactions to it turned the heads of epidemiologists (people who study health and illnesses in populations). They discovered that mass multiplayer games such as Warcraft resembled the real-world and in this case, how real-world people react to epidemics. Some players with characters that could heal offered their services, many grouped together in uninfected areas, quarantines were set up voluntarily, some low-level characters acted as ushers and directed others away from highly infected areas and some even purposely furthered the spread of the infection.

Articles on how the Incident could be likened to SARS and the avian flu were published by the bundle in science and medical journals around the world. Even the anti-terrorism officials in many countries took a closer look at the game when some players intentionally tried to create chaos and terrorized other player’s characters by threatening to give them the disease.

A new way of conducting experiments surfaced when scientists and security officials gained interest on how people would react to real-world mass infections and biological warfare by using a virtual world as a reference point. Video games are no longer simply an entertainment factor or an excuse to which we blame for the many defects in our society, but now they can serve as test sites for work that may save humankind in the future.

Though more and more arguments spring up every year complaining that technology is unraveling our society and distancing us from the real world, there is proof that technology is being used by society to bring us back to the human factor with a baby’s giggle, it gathers us together during times that should rip society apart with a pair of dentures and it works to save many, many lives while providing a bit of entertainment in the form of video games.

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