Hearing Economics is pleased to welcome back Terry Ross as this week’s guest blogger. When times get tense and maybe too serious, we can always count on him to put things in perspective and relieve the tension, as he did last year with the Costco-Phonak hookup.
Today, Terry takes on Hearables, the new kid on the hearing amplifier block and the subject of many posts at Hearing Economics in recent months. As a long-time survivor on the Audiology scene, he’s developed a good grasp of economics and a keen sense of reality while managing to hold on to his dry sense of humor. His bio is beneath the post.
Mr. Roboto Comes of Age
When I started to think about writing this short post, my goal was to discuss what I believe is the socially-invasive nature of personal wearable technology. The first thing that came to my mind was an old song by the band Styx – Mr. Roboto, written by Dennis DeYoung, on their album called Kilroy Was Here some 30 years ago!
To me, Mr. Roboto aptly describes the “Everyman” that is rapidly emerging as the model of modern society, today’s lifestyles, and general daily living here in the United States. Today, human beings are wearing more technology than the so-called super-computers used just a few short years ago. Much of this new technology is deemed by many as indispensable to everyday life – in fact, if you simply observe the world around you (airports are great for this), you will see hordes of people, simply walking through life, head down, mesmerized by a small screen that holds all of their life secrets and which has become their primary tool used for “human interaction” on a 24 hour basis.
I have to admit that, yes, I too have become one of these solitary, techno-kidnapped, byte-addicted, human-interaction-stunted people. I am Mr. Roboto and I need help.
What began as a noble and utilitarian endeavor – to bring portable computing capability to the masses in the 70s, has now morphed into a full-fledged assault on traditional human communication, and is creating a society that is fully dependent upon technology to solve all of the challenges of daily life, improve and monitor healthcare, allow remote retail purchasing, plan travel, conduct finance, and allow 24-hour access to anyone, anywhere with nary a word uttered. Don’t get me wrong – some of these activities have merit and may even offer long term benefits – my issue is with the solitary element of non-communication and lack of human interaction that is looming. After all, I have spent over 35 years in the audiology industry trying to help people hear and respond to other people when they speak.
It’s a Power Play
Today, our cell phone has much more computer power than all of NASA could muster up back in 1969, when it placed a couple of brave astronauts on the moon. Seems hard to believe, I know, but it is actually true – the slim hand-held gadget we are attached to has greater computational capabilities than the mass of machines used to guiding rockets through outer space some 45 years ago.
Perhaps some of you remember the CRAY 1 computer back in the 70’s. It was deemed the most powerful super computer in the world at a mind blowing rate of 80MHz. But a Cray-1’s raw computational power of 80 million floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) is laughable by today’s standards; the graphics unit alone inside the iPhone 5s produces about 77 GigaFLOPS – nearly a thousand times more.
Compensatory wearable technology, like hearing instruments, remain a vital tool in maintaining and enhancing life’s experiences and human communication – that is just a fact of life. Just like other wearable healthcare devices such as heart monitors, blood pressure monitors, pacemakers, insulin administration devices, medication alerts, or pain management devices – these all contribute to the improvement of our overall living experience by compensating, informing and/or enhancing physical well-being and socialization. Some of these “smart devices” even interpret data, and could make life or death decisions in nano-seconds. How cool is that?
But there is a dark, “unspoken” secret looming ahead. And that is: the slow but continuous decline of direct human interaction is occurring at a remarkably rapid rate. Many of you may have experienced or witnessed one or more of the following scenarios at one time or another:
- Couples sitting at a restaurant, each engrossed in watching a tiny screen on their cell phone with little or no conversation between them, because they are too busy sharing a picture of their meal with all their Facebook friends. I especially like the pictures that show a partially eaten meal – now that’s weird – but it gives me keen insight into their eating habits, rituals and food preferences.
- Someone in a checkout line at a store who cannot talk to the clerk because they are having a phone conversation about their latest Botox injection – just rude, I dare say, and frankly, I’m not interested in this form of forced eavesdropping.
- Drivers who text…OMG, ’nuff said on this one.
- Citizens walking around like the “March of the Zombies”, as they aimlessly wander down the street, around the mall, or in other public venues – eyes glued to the screen of their cell phone, searching for the next great deal on Amazon or watching another “You won’t believe what happened next” Utube video – totally oblivious to the world around them – and yes, people do actually run into windows and doors – all quite amusing I might add.
- Even runners checking their time and heart-rate at each stoplight, ruining a perfectly nice day by reminding you that the double cheeseburger and fries I ate for lunch was once again a poor decision.
Take the Challenge
The harsh reality is that we are becoming more and more comfortable in living life like a hermit crab – all alone with our world attached to our bodies. Only this life has direct access to anything we wish to know and the ability to share that knowledge or images with the world, instantly – today we just “google” it. Ask me anything, anything at all – I can have the answer in just seconds.
Frankly, I’m scared. Could I ever get through a whole week without my technology protecting me, informing me, guiding my every action, and enhancing my life experiences – could I survive such a test? Could I actually wean myself from the constant updates on my calorie intake, steps I’ve taken or distances I have traveled. I’ve tried, and failed a number of times. “Just a ‘quick PEEK’ at my mailbox….pleeeease!!!” Instead of relaxing on vacation, I approach it with the angst one has in preparing for a root canal or vasectomy – “Whaddya mean no internet when we’re on vacation, honey??”
Don’t get me wrong – I love technology! I just want to make sure that as we march forward and our worlds collide between driverless automobiles so we can Facebook ALL of the time, to medical miracles which help us navigate those pesky aging and health problems, that we don’t forget to talk to each other once in a while – share an idea, give a compliment, and laugh with your friends for real, not just by typing “lol”. I mean really, did you honestly laugh out loud every time you have used that acronym?
So here is my challenge to you:
Pick 3 consecutive days in which you will commit to not utilizing or accessing any wearable or portable technologies (medical devices are excluded) and let me know how you did, what your feelings were, and how it impacted your day(s) either positively or negatively…send your experiences to email@example.com and I will publish the results on Holly’s Blog in the Fall.
Good luck and I look forward to hearing from you – gotta go, I just got a text mail telling me I am not participating often enough in Candy Crush and my friends are NOT happy!
Terry Ross is Director of Business Development at Beltone Corporation (GN Hearing Care). Formerly, he was Vice President of MedRx, Inc., a global manufacturer of PC-based audiometric diagnostic and testing instrumentation and subsidiary of William Demant Holding Group. He has over 35 years of executive management experience within the hearing care industry. Mr. Ross has spent the last three decades in a variety of executive management positions in sales, training and marketing of hearing care-related products, equipment and services. He received his B.S. degree from Mankato State University, Minnesota, USA and is a certified sales trainer from Wilson Learning® Center – an international professional sales training and executive development organization.
feature image courtesy of doom stead diner