Fascinating article in my newspaper on Saturday. Apparently one in three smartphone users would rather lose their wallet than their phone. Initially surprised, I thought it through and actually, yes, that does make sense. All that personal data, those contacts, calendar dates – even for some people a list of passwords (REALLY not recommended!)… our whole life is gradually being transferred onto those little pocket-sized miracles.
The article went on to talk about how, within the next few months, many of us will do away with wallets altogether. A bit like the way the younger generation has done away with wristwatches (noticed that? As my teenage son explained to me, why would he want a gadget that only does one thing?) This is because Google and others will be turning our smartphones into ‘containers for coupons, credit cards and receipts’, so we won’t be needing cash or the plastic any more. Instead, we will download an app to do all that stuff for us.
Now, I love technology. I struggle to work it sometimes, but I’m quite happy to engage with it and move on with the rest of the world. Yet there is a small, insistent voice in the back of my head that makes me uneasy, as we increasingly replace real human contact with barcodes, apps and on-line shopping. It’s already possible to get right round your supermarket or DIY without ever interacting with a member of staff. More of us are working remotely and communicate with our colleagues by email and instant messaging. I have online friends who I’ve never met in the flesh at all; that’s brilliant, but it raises some interesting questions about the nature of friendship and where our interpersonal skills are going.
Human interaction is one of the most enjoyable, fascinating and educational opportunities we ever experience in our daily lives – and most of it is free of charge. So bring on the contactless technology, but let’s promise ourselves to work a whole lot harder at the other stuff too, by nurturing our friendships and our communities in the real world as well as the virtual one. I don’t believe there is an app to replace humanity in all its awesomeness just yet.