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The dark side of modern technology

By | Jul 18th 2010 | 4 min read
By | July 18th 2010

By Kenfrey Kiberenge

An American businessman and politician Mark Kennedy is famed for saying, "All of the biggest technological inventions created by man — the airplane, the automobile, the computer — say little about his intelligence, but speak volumes about his laziness.

This cannot be overemphasised in relation to the use of modern technology.

Why would you take the stairs to a third floor in a building fitted with efficient lifts or escalators? Why would you walk more than three kilometres when you can drive a lesser demanding and more comfortable automated car? Or why would you struggle to get the right spelling of a word when typing it in a computer when you can ‘spell-check’?

Many people prefer lifts to taking the stairs. Photos: Jonah Onyango/Standard

These are some of the questions the hi-tech generation would ask in relation to use of technology that has automated virtually everything they have to do.

However, experts now say Kenyans are becoming increasingly lazy as a result of the technology. People no longer go to the library physically with search engine Goggle having made work easier.

Flipping through the TV and radio channels is also done from the comfort of the couch while taking the stairs, even to first floor, is considered menial work unless the lifts or escalators are jammed.

Experts say despite the obvious health hazards of these numerous shortcuts, this is the life Kenyans, especially those in the urban areas, have resorted to: simple and hassle-free.

Kate Kibara, a clinical nutritionist and colon hydro-therapist, argues that people need to be wise even as they embrace modern technology.

"Not just in Kenya, it is worldwide. People have become sedentary and this is dangerous for their health," said Kibara.

But sociologist Paul Mbatia says technology should not be viewed as an obstacle in life but a way of making life easier.

"People embrace technology because it helps achieve an intended purpose efficiently and not because they are lazy or do not want to burn calorie," he says.

The modern day average income-earner is more comfortable parting with a few hundreds to buy disposable goods such a diapers for their babies as opposed to the traditional nappies, which are considered a burden to maintain.

Even then, those in the high-end have their washing lessened with the entry into the local market of dishwashers and laundry machines that clean everything from dishes to handkerchiefs and pillows.

Cooking made easier

Most mothers are also buying modern baby formulae for their newborns after a few months of breastfeeding. Cooking has also been made easier. People are now buying ready-to-cook or cooking lots of food and store it in the fridges for days on end, which they simply defrost and warm using microwaves.

"The processed foods do not have much nutrition value and have harmful chemicals," warns Kibara, also the managing director at Kates Organics in Nairobi.

Driving has become more enjoyable and less burdening with the invention of cars with automatic transmission that effortlessly changes gears, freeing the driver from manual gear shifting.

Samwel Oduor, a young driver, says he has lost several friends courtesy of the automated driving through accidents.

"People dose off as they drive and end up causing accidents", he said.

Many people are also turning to computers for correcting grammatical errors in soft copy documents as opposed to the days of typewriters when the writer had to get everything right.

Even simple mathematical calculations like determining what change to give to a customer, who buys stuff worth Sh180 and pays with a Sh1,000 note, is a hassle. Shopkeepers and supermarket cashiers have to rely on either software installed in computers or calculators.

That is not all. Uchumi Supermarkets have come up with Okoa Masaa (save time) services where customers are required to simply dial a number to selected outlets and have their shopping done and delivered at doorsteps, whether at workplaces or homes.

Innscor Kenya Ltd, owners of Galito’s, Chicken Inn, Pizza Inn, Creamy Inn, Bakers Inn and Vasilis, also have a similar arrangement — dial-a-delivery — where customers call and have their favourite bites dropped at their location but within a radius of five kilometres from the particular outlet.

Children too have not been left behind. Unlike in the past when play used to be outdoor, today they prefer watching TV and playing games on play stations.

However, Kibara warns each technology has a social cost, which people need to evaluate before embracing.

"Modern technology is not bad, it all boils down to how people use it," she says.

Janet Madiangi, a caterer, argues technology can be viewed as both a laziness enhancer and a tool for efficiency.

Laziness enhancer

"It is like chocolates: sweet but one needs to know when too much is just that: too much," said Madiangi.

Jackline Kagwiria, an accountant, agrees that modern technology has made people lazy. "Very lazy indeed and with time they will get lazier."

But George Gitonga, a liaison officer, differs: "It (technology) has only liberated us to concentrate on what matters."

"If I can spend a minute to climb a building with a lift why would I spend three through the stairs?" asks Gitonga, adding that automatic driving is the best thing that has happened to his life.

However, Kibara cautions that people who lead a sedentary life generally have more fats retained in their bodies enhancing their chances of suffering from fat-related complications.

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