TECHNOLOGY

If you look to the world of films then the question
of whether computers, robots or artificial
intelligence will ultimately save or destroy the
world has already been well covered! Films like
2001 Space Odyssey, I Robot, Terminator and
more recently Blade Runner 2049 all deal with this
question. While these glimpses of the future may
seem dramatic, we are already seeing technology
change the way we live at an accelerating rate.
But how do we decide today whether technology
actually enhances our health or causes it to suffer?

We are all used to seeing people in our vicinity
using some form of electronic device whether a
tablet, smartphone or laptop. As we have seen the
explosion of health sites, influencers and wellness
platforms on social media and more generally on
the Internet, there is a mass of health information
available. People can use this technology to
receive wellness tips, understand health trends,
discover recipes and monitor their own health.
Furthermore, the use of technology can certainly
facilitate a greater understanding of mind body

connection by providing biofeedback. Biofeedback technologies can be extremely helpful and create a useful intersect between health and technology. We are all familiar with wearable technologies now and as well as fitness trackers there are a whole range of other products including hydration trackers and devices that measure the quality of your sleep. We see this playing out also in certain diagnostic gyms and yoga studios where blood, hair and saliva samples can aid a greater understanding of fitness with what is known as a ‘blood lactate threshold’. And if we consider anti-ageing technologies then technology start-up companies are right at the forefront here

Many companies are using predictive analytics for in-depth analysis of an individual’s genetics, physiology and psychology. The argument here is that these practices will soon defy the normal standard of care with personalised/high-tech treatments in theory accessible for everyone, even though at the moment they are really only used by the ultra-wealthy. However that is just one side of the story! We all know that we have become addicted to the speed and intensity of modern life, which can erode our natural state of wellbeing often to the point of exhaustion. Despite technology that connects 

everyone instantly, boundaries between work and
life have been blurred, which encourage a lack of
downtime and technology driven activity such as
social media can minimise time spent engaging in
face-to-face interactions. In early November 2017
the Economist reported that Americans touch
their smartphones on average a staggering 2,600
times a day.

Although for the most part we seem to be happy
with this hyperconnectivity, it does appear as if
the tides are slowly turning. Health practitioners
argue that new strategies are needed for resting
and recovering from technology use. If the last
decade has been about designing for connectivity
then some have talked about the next decade
being about ‘the architecture of disconnection’.
We are already seeing some restaurants banning
devices to create a more social atmosphere and
some destinations such as The Grand Canyon are
advertising limited connectivity as a competitive
advantage. Mandarin Oriental spas themselves
offer digital retreats where people can ‘detox
from technology for a while’. We may therefore
see in the future spas and resorts blocking Wi-Fi
altogether or designing special technology free
zones. We may even see rather than hotspots,
public areas which will promote ‘coldspots’
allowing a disconnection from technology.
What is worrying is that there’s been a deluge of
new research and justified concern about how
technology which is designed to grab and keep
our attention, could actually be altering our brains.
Some of this research has found that young people
are especially susceptible to changes in brain
chemistry which can lead to increased drowsiness
and anxiety, and may be linked to the recent
increase in teenage depression .
It is fair to say though that the technology
industry is responding with mindful offerings of
its own like ‘Moment’, an application that allows
you to set a limit on the number of times you
can check your devices each day. Alternatively
the ‘Forest App’ plants a tree after you spend
a certain amount of hours o! your phone. But
what do those at the top of the tech giants think?
It’s interesting how the one and only Steve Jobs
even reputedly told a journalist that his kids were
not allowed to use iPads. It would also appear
that some entrepreneurs who have been in the
digital space for years are now beginning to step
back, assess and take responsibility for what it is
they really want to be creating.

One of the problems is that social media and
messaging platforms act, in many ways, like an
addictive drug. Facebook, and every other social
media outlet are reported to be well aware of
this. Your phone can vibrate a dozen times an
hour with alerts about likes and comments and
retweets and faves. The combined effect is one of
just trying to suck you back in. Sean Parker, one
of Facebook’s earliest investors and the company’s
first president, came right out and said the whole
intention of Facebook is to act like a drug, by
“[giving] you a little dopamine hit every once in a
while, because someone liked or commented on
a photo or a post or whatever.” That, Parker said,
was by design. So are these companies taking
advantage of a vulnerability in human psychology?
Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya
has echoed this, too. “Do I feel guilty?” he asked
rhetorically on CNN about the role Facebook is
playing in society. “Absolutely I feel guilt.”
It can be seen then that there are both advantages
and disadvantages of technology when it comes
to health. Perhaps the recent experiment of
African Bushmen using GPS as opposed to their
own senses is an indication of where this might
go. Here the senses of the Bushmen became less
sensitive and actually were shown to be dulled
by the use of technology. And then ultimately
for some, mindfulness and meditation are even
seen as forms of timeless technology themselves,
which can elevate us and improve our health and
wellbeing.

WRITTEN BY- STEPHEN MARKS
STEPHEN HAS BEEN PRACTISING YOGA
FOR OVER 20-YEARS AND DID HIS TEACHER
TRAINING WITH THE SHAMANIC SCHOOL
OF YOGA. HE IS ALSO A QUALIFIED YOGA
NIDRA AND MEDITATION TEACHER, AND
TEACHES AT TOTAL CHI STUDIO IN LONDON
AND PRIVATELY FOR CORPORATE CLIENTS.
HE GIVES CLASSES AT MANY UK MUSIC AND
WELLNESS FESTIVALS AND HAS TAUGHT IN
THE MIDDLE EAST, MEXICO AND EUROPE.

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