Verizon has a new phone called the Droid, which they tout as being this impressive machine capable of many impressive feats of technological wonder. Commercials even say that with the Droid, you can "reach the deepest depths of the oceans without getting so much as a grain of sand in your shorts."
While shopping at Walmart, I passed a toy gun that shapes snowballs for you and then shoots them like projectiles so you don't have to throw them. It allows kids to have all the fun without having to make the snowball themselves.
The Wii Fit allows you to exercise inside your home and get your heart rate up without ever stepping foot out the door for a jog or play a game in which you'd be bothered by other people. Kids don't even have to be told to run around outside anymore by their parents; they can get all the activity they need playing video games.
All of these products, at first glance, are by themselves taken for what they are without any second thought, nothing to be upset about. The Droid is a phone that can do all sorts of cool stuff that phones just couldn't do only a few years ago. That toy I saw at Walmart lets kids have the capabilities of shaping snowballs, so their older brothers and sisters or parents don't have to do it for them or show them how to do it. The Wii Fit gets kids who would normally not be motivated toward active play to exercise without them even knowing it and gives adults with busy lives a tool in their own home that they can use to stay in shape.
But what do these products, taken as a whole, say about society? Why do I cringe every single time I hear the Droid commercial ask me if my phone allows me to "reach the deepest depths of the ocean?"
Because that shouldn't be an option! If you go to a beach with sand, you should get sand in your shorts.
Technology is a wonderful thing. We can cure diseases, send people to the moon, communicate with each other from across the globe and quickly move money and resources from a place of wealth to a place stricken by tragedy.
But technology should not serve as a method for taking shortcuts in life that further remove us psychologically from our natural world. Technology should not look to replace such a basic childhood pleasure like a snowball fight by taking the wonderful power of creation out of the hands of a child and putting into the plastic of a machine. Technology should not fool people into equating video games with exercise.
We have gone too far in some places; these are just three examples. But every day we are trying harder and harder to escape the fact of our own mortality, that we are flesh and bone. In the long run, this will be dangerous for the human species. We can't reverse it now, only be aware of it.
Take a moment every day to ground yourself, to remind yourself that you are flesh and blood and you breathe air and can interact with a beautiful natural world that technology will never be able to replace.