Opinion » Pique'n Yer Interest

Riding the techno wave



As you're reading this, 1,000 of the world's most tech-savvy minds are attending weird seminars in Whistler in a language you probably don't speak.

There's also a good chance that, as you're reading this, I'm sitting in the middle of one of their group conversations, mouth agape, low, gurgling noises of incomprehension bubbling from somewhere deep in my stomach, trying to make sense of it all.

It's not Scientology summer camp or an alien invasion. It's the GROW Conference: a meeting of the technological minds that focuses on the future of innovation, growth and entrepreneurship.

One of the conference's stated missions is to turn Whistler into the world's most connected resort by the year 2020. As I type this, I'm not entirely sure what that means.

Make no mistake: if I'm sounding a little bit lost, it's because, yes, I am deeply and horribly lost.

But I haven't always been. I used to blow into my NES cartridges like a straight up badass, and for years I was the only one in my family who knew how to hook the DVD player up to the TV.

But not too long ago — I don't remember why — I was struck with a horrible, terrifying thought: at just 26 years old, technology is already starting to pass me by. Unless I make a conscious effort to stay up-to-date and educate myself on the ever-changing products on the market, I may soon be relying on my nieces to help me send my emails.

There's already a whole host of computer-related things I don't understand. More and more, the world is speaking a language I don't know how to speak. It's got numbers and weird symbols and it makes me want to draw the blinds and lock my doors. When I was a kid, we communicated in letters.

I remember when technology was exciting to me. The prospect of cool, futuristic gadgets was something I invited. Now, people are wearing TVs and smartphones on their wrists and faces, and cars are driving themselves. It's terrifying.

Allen Kay, an American computer scientist, once said that technology is anything that wasn't around when you were born. I would take that thought one step further, and say that every year you're alive, "technology" takes another step away from your realm of understanding, unless you take conscious steps to keep up with it.

Since the year I was born — 1988 — technology has morphed into something few could have expected. Even as we speak, women and men who are much smarter than myself are creating fascinating, life-changing new devices and ways for humanity to take pictures of itself.

When I was a kid, my mom had a video camera. To use it, you had to carry half of our VCR with you in a duffel bag. It was the coolest thing we owned.

I still remember the first time I saw a digital camera, and how mind-blowing it was to be able to see the pictures right after you took them.

Further to that, I still remember the first camera-phone I ever saw, and the awe-inspiring grainy pictures it displayed.

Now, cameras are literally all around us and Stephen Harper is listening to my phone calls.

I'm pretty sure the only items I own that don't contain a computer chip of some kind are my clothes, and the way things are going that's not likely to last long either.

There are some very real privacy concerns that come with an endlessly connected world, but some might argue that's the price we pay for convenience.

As the world gets more and more connected, the urge to disconnect gets stronger. But I can't. As much as I'd like to go live in the hills with the bears and eat berries for the rest of my life, I have no choice but to doggy-paddle my head above the growing crest of the techno-wave. If I don't, I will, for all intents and purposes, cease to exist in our modern, futuristic world.

I have few doubts that future generations will solve all of the world's problems with technology, if industry and global politics will allow it. Futurists are already predicting that the rise of the robot worker class will eliminate the majority of labour within three generations.

With the flood of innovations will come massive shifts in ideology and economics, and indeed, full-blown revolutions.

By the end of my lifetime, the world will scarcely resemble the one my mom once recorded with a VCR in a bag. Sooner or later, no matter how hard I try, I know I'll be left behind. It's just the natural order of things.

For now, I can only do my best to stifle my fears and doubts and keep up to the curve. It's not impossible; it will just take a little bit of effort. I'm always open to learning, and attending the GROW Conference is as good a place to start as any.

And if all else fails, I can always default to my original plan of barricading my door and stockpiling Heinz Deep-Browned in anticipation of the robot uprising of 2052.