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My best friend!

Are we bringing new meaning to man to machine communications? By David Boothroyd.

It might sound blindingly obvious, but we live radically different lives to those of people 50 years ago. Why? Because we do something they never did: we spend a massive proportion of our waking hours dealing with – and relating to – electronic machines.
A recent US study showed the average American now spends a phenomenal nine hours a day watching tv, surfing the web or using a mobile phone. Say they are awake for around 16 hours a day – and presuming there are certain things they do that don’t involve being with machines – we can conclude that something like 70% of their time is spent using electronic devices.
The study – conducted by the Centre for Media Design at Ball State University, in Indiana – was extraordinarily detailed. Researchers spent all day with people, entering data every 15s on whether they were interacting with electronic media, and, if so, what and how. TV is still dominant (240min a day), but the pc is second (120min a day) and catching up. About a third of the time, people are interfacing with two or more electronic media at a time.
“People are consuming media more than they eat, talk or sleep; it’s far and away their number one activity,” says Professor Bob Papper, the report’s co author. He is conducting a series of companion studies to see what effect this is having on people’s personalities.
With technology, where the US goes the rest of the world follows, so it may not be long before such statistics are true virtually worldwide. If anything deserves the phrase ‘a revolution in behaviour’, surely this does.
From now on, we will live our lives in a way that has never happened before. So the question is: what effect is it having? No one knows the answer, but there are signs that people and their relationships are being altered significantly – and the relationships are with almost totally unintelligent machines.

David Boothroyd

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