Technology keeps making our lives more convenient and easier, and consumers are quick to fork over more money for more gadgetry.
The majority of U.S. drivers are willing to pay nearly $1,500 for high-tech entertainment and safety devices in their automobiles, a Harris poll reports. People crave connectivity and things like backup cameras, USB ports and smartphone charging capabilities in cars, an online survey of 1,033 vehicle owners done for researcher AutoTrader.com notes
Never mind that it contributes to distracted driving, claiming more than 3,300 lives and causing an estimated 421,000 injuries in 2012, according to the website, distraction.gov. Drivers in their 20s make up 27 percent of distracted drivers in fatal crashes, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports.
Yet, a lot of high-tech equipment is built into a lot of vehicles that rental car companies provide for consumers. It gets people primed to want such things in new cars they might purchase.
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Homes are becoming smarter, too, with lights and heaters turning on without occupants lifting a finger. These are places with sensors and ties to the Internet.
The Consumer Electronics Association projects sales of smart energy and security systems will reach $574 million this year, up 23 percent over 2014, The Associated Press reports. “The good news is nearly 70 million U.S. households already have a home network, providing a foundation to build upon for greater home automation and connectivity to systems like the smart grid,” the association’s website says.
But rather than clamoring for the latest gizmos, people need to ask whether humanity is becoming too dependent on technology. Famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawkings depends completely on technology for mobility and to communicate because he is totally paralyzed from a motor neurone disease related to amyothrophic lateral sclerosis.
Hawking in an interview with the BBC last year said: “The primitive forms of artificial intelligence we already have prove very useful. But I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”
Because of continuing advances in technology, artificial intelligence eventually will become self-aware and overtake humankind.
Our dependence on technology also continues to grow so that people use smartphones and GPS systems to direct them to locations that they otherwise would need maps to locate. Let’s not even talk about map-folding skills being lost because of the ease and security of using gadgets to get around anywhere in the city, state, country or planet.
Some new cars have self-parallel parking technology so new drivers never have to learn that skill. Electronic windows have been in cars for decades and are nearly a standard feature. Car doors lock automatically after a certain speed is reached.
People not only are forgetting to do such little things, but the accumulating convenience that technology offers also is erasing the exercise and physical activity that people used to have to do such as cranking windows up and down and manually locking doors. Technology makes people more dependent on it.
Who remembers phone numbers, names and addresses anymore? Smartphones do that work for us, enabling another primary skill to be lost.
So people may not be able to put up much of a fight if self-aware, all-controlling artificial intelligence is born with a malevolence. It would be like the 1984 science-fiction thriller “Terminator” and the sequels it spawned.
The fifth, “Terminator: Genisys,” is due out this summer.