I was reading Ross Dawson’s excellent blog on media trends and was entranced with a visualization he developed (with Richard Watson) on future trends.

Along with the usual trending topics of urbanization, gentrification and a power shift to the east was “anxiety.”   Anxiety as a trend?

This struck a chord, especially during a week where every critical technology in my life malfunctioned!  What are the ways technology is contributing to growing levels of anxiety in our culture?

• Paralysis

Last year I was in the hunt to buy a new digital camera. On top of the millions of combinations of brands and features, there were an incredible number of purchase options.  And sorting through hundreds of consumer and web reviews –supposed to make things easier —  seemed impossible to process.  Many consumers faced with a similar amount of information simply shut down — they are afraid to make the wrong decision. Decision paralysis that comes with too much information is a real issue.

Complexity

I just bought a new computer. It took me three weeks to move the software, settings and files from one computer to the new one. This involved multiple phone interactions with various software companies, finding licence numbers that required a magnifying glass to interpret and manipulations of servers to get all of my applications to work together again in harmony ( which has not happened).  Just setting up this basic business functionality was difficult and time-consuming.   While individual applications may make life easier in the short-term, the complexity and fragility of technology systems is making life increasingly stressful. Which also leads to …

Impact of Gentrification

What if I did not have the underlying experience with technology to make this all work?  There are two speeding trains heading straight for each other — the increasing number of senior citizens and the increased complexity of technology.

Vulnerability

We are becoming increasingly vulnerable to Internet attacks as our dependence on web life-tools increases and the analog method of doing things becomes obsolete.  Don’t buy that?  Try getting by for one week without email.

Ubiquity

Undoubtedly the Orwellian vision of “Big Brother” is coming true. Technology companies may soon know more about us than we truly know about ourselves. What are the implications for how we live our lives when every movement, and every mistake, is recorded for posterity?

Rate of change

Technology moves in dog years.  If you un-tether for a month, it’s like missing seven months of technological advancement.  The answer to staying on top of things?  Never un-tether.

Before you beat me up and point out all the wonderful benefits of technology (including this dialogue) I’d like to leave you with this thought.  Two hundred years ago, the pressure to keep up with technological change was not even a human consideration. Life pretty much went on as it always had,  and our mindset was that it would continue that way forever.  Mankind lived a rural life dependent on friends and family, weather and livestock … as it had for centuries.   There was no “app for that.”

Genetically, we are cut from the same cloth as our pioneering ancestors.  What are the implications for having a constant imperative in our lives to understand, assess, deploy and maintain our digital selves?

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