Evolving (or not) with Our Devices
When I talk on the phone, I’ve always used my left ear to listen. Listening in the right ear just doesn’t sound right. This might be due to being right handed, doing the shoulder hold to take notes when needed. As corded turned to cordless and mobile along with the hands-free ear-plugs, that plug went into the left ear whenever I was on the phone. Recently, I’ve been listening to some music while walking the dog and have run into an issue. The stereo ear plugs do not fit, sit or stay in my right ear. I have no problem with the nub in my left ear but need to keep re-inserting, adjusting and holding the plug in my right ear. I’m sure I was born with the same size opening for both ears years ago and my only explanation is that my left ear has evolved over the years to accommodate an ear plug. Even measuring each indicates that the left is opened more ever so slightly. I seem to be fine, or at least better, with the isolation earphone style but it’s the ear-bud type that won’t fit in my right ear. I realize there are tons of earplug types for various needs and I could just get one that works for me but it got me thinking. If my ears or specifically my left ear has morphed due to technology, what other human physical characteristics might evolve over time.
As computers became commonplace and more people started using keyboards, we started to see a huge increase of carpal tunnel syndrome. Sure, other repetitive tasks of the hand and wrist can cause carpal tunnel but typing on a computer keyboard is probably the most common cause. Posture related injuries like back, neck, shoulder and arm pain along with headaches are common computer related injuries. Focusing your eyes at the same distance over extended periods of time can cause fatigue and eye strain. It might not do permanent damage to your eyesight but you could experience blurred vision, headaches and a temporary inability to focus on faraway objects. Things like proper design of your workstation and taking breaks that encourage blood flow can help reduce computer related injuries. Of course, every profession has their specific repetitive tasks which can lead to some sort of injury and, depending on your work, the body adjusts and has it’s own physical memory to accomplish the task. Riding a bike. Often smokers who are trying to quit can tolerate the nicotine deduction but it’s the repetitive physical act of bringing the dart up that causes grief. That’s why many turn to straws or toothpicks or some other item to break the habit.
We’ve gotten use to seeing people walking around with little blue-tooth ear apparatus attached to their heads and think nothing of it. They’ll leave it in all day even if they are not talking on the phone. Many probably feel ‘naked’ if they forgot it one day, almost like a watch or ring that we wear daily. I mentioned a couple years ago in IPv6 and the End of the World that with IPv6, each one of us, worldwide, would be able to have our own personal IP address that would follow us anywhere. Hold on, I’m getting a call through my earring but first must authenticate with the chip in my earlobe. That same chip, after checking my print and pulse, would open the garage, unlock the doors, disable the home alarm, turn on the heat and start the microwave for a nice hot meal as soon as I enter. Who would have thought that Carol Burnett's ear tug would come back.
Now that many of us have mobile devices with touch-screens, we’re tapping away with index fingers and thumbs. I know my thumb joints can get sore when tapping too much. Will our thumbs grow larger or stronger over time to accommodate the new repetitive movement or go smaller and pointy to make sure we’re able to click the the correct virtual keypad on the device. We got video eyewear so it’s only a matter of time that our email and mobile screens could simply appear while wearing shades or as heads up on the car windshield. With special gloves or an implant under our hand, we can control the device through movement or tapping the steering wheel.
Ahhh, anyway, I’m sure things will change again in the next decade and we’ll have some other things happening within our evolutionary process but it’ll be interesting to see if we can maintain control over technology or will technology change us. In the meantime, I’ll be ordering some new earphones.