/ Technology

Could you turn your back on technology?

In next week’s Which? Tech podcast, Stephen Fry will be chatting to us about the gadgets he regularly uses. But, as I look at my own growing list of time-saving devices, I wonder; are there any adverse side effects?

Psychologist Dr Aric Sigman is concerned that we’re not just becoming addicted to our technology, (or at least forming an unhealthy dependency on it), but that its overuse is fundamentally changing the way our brains work.

In the forthcoming Which? Tech podcast, Stephen Fry claims that ‘the option is open for anybody to simply turn their back on this [tech] world and say: “I want nothing to do with it”’. But is technology really that easy to give up?

Too attached to our tech

The Which? Tech team have listed the gadgets they couldn’t live without, suggesting that weaning themselves off their mobile phones and tablets wouldn’t be as easy as they think.

So perhaps it’s best we nip this mind-altering trend in the bud, and focus on preventing people from taking up new technologies in the first place. We could even find this prolongs the existence of more traditional formats, such as the newspaper, the paperback and FM radio.

However, I personally believe that technology makes life’s experiences richer. In our podcast, Stephen Fry claims that his laptops make him more productive, while John Meehan from In Publishing magazine argues that you may face irrelevance if you fail to take up Twitter.

We asked Which? members which gadgets they owned – see the infographic for the results.

An evolutionary shift

As more and more essential services move online, the non-connected world will be left further and further behind. So instead of ignoring the developments around us, maybe we need to embrace them and consider the potential shift in our brains’ make-up as a necessary evolutionary step.

After all, throughout humankind’s existence, there have been new developments that have irreversibly changed the way our brains work: developments that may have been sneered upon at the time but are now accepted and celebrated. Perhaps it’s simply our ability to scientifically detect these changes now that leads to greater concern than before.

Laptops make us lazy

Unfortunately, as Dr Sigman points out, changing the way we think isn’t the only side effect that can arise from the increase in technology. He thinks that, for some, heavy tech use brings with it a more sedentary life, which can lead to type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

It will come as no surprise that I’m not a doctor, and I concede that the potential neurological changes may be more serious than a simple adaptation to a changing lifestyle. But, for what it’s worth, I prescribe a balanced life of technology and physical activity. If followed, my prognosis is a healthy, productive future enriched by technology.

Do you have any tech you couldn’t live without? Do you find you lead a less active lifestyle because of your favourite gadgets?

Don’t miss our Tech Podcast on Tuesday 29 May, where Stephen Fry will be telling us all about the gadgets he can’t live without. 


I feel that many are too dependent on mobile phones. It is intrusive when people on buses and trains take or make calls and I have no option but to listen. Others fail to turn their phones off in meetings and some will even answer calls. I use my own mobile mainly to pick up messages left on my own phone. I don’t want to be interrupted by anyone at any time, and my friends know that email is the best way to get in touch.

What I would find difficult to turn my back on is laptops. I sometimes use two at once. Sad. 🙁

26 May 2012

I believe that it is not the existence of the various gadgets that cause a problem, but the social concience of their users. Just having your mobile ring [even on vibrate] doesn’t mean it has to be answered immediately; lack of common courtesy is the key issue here.

Laptops mean that I can provide housebound people [and others of course] a far better experience with their hearing aids when they use TV & phone streamers directly into them or a BiCROS system allowing “dead” ears to be useful again.

However, we must always remember that CHANGE does not necessarily equal PROGRESS

I certainly could not easily live without my Tech gadgets – But I don’t spend that much more time using my tech gadgets than I did using the previous gadgets – I used to read about five books a week – now I spend a similar time reading the computer screen and read physical books far less. I communicate far more to “strangers” now than I ever did before mobiles and computers. I never use my mobile outside the house unless it is an emergency (I switch if off while driving) I do not travel by bus or train. Rather like I see no point in having an iPad or tablet because all my needs are already met to my satisfaction,

As far as Stephen Fry is concerned everything he has been using up till now had to be invented and not so long ago he has become a household name due to technology (Radio & TV)
So without Technology there would have been no such thing as himself and many other like him, before & after him.

Stephen Fry makes me smile these days, sometime ago I heard him on a Radio4 program commenting on the emergence of Twitter, what did he say? something like “Twitter, somewhere for Twits to witter on endlessly!” How the worm has turned, he should have stuck with his original view, this electronic background noise and the value attached to it is getting out of hand. Even the irascible J Humphrys seems to believe that the whole world is dependant on electronic fluff like Twitter, how many Twitter users are there? How many people are there on this planet? nuff said….

Would I miss my tech?, well yes I would, especially Which Conversation, it gives me a chance to voice my views in the never ending electronic mush that is the internet!!!!

I lived without TV for 2 months once and I became quite prolific in my songwriting.

However, if someone is saying that they can’t live without their iphone or ipad then they probably need to get out a bit more.

Of course you can live without your tech, life existed fine before it, and if you go a period without it, you will find that your are less full of rage due to bugs, adverts and “network issues” that I experience daily with mine. Quality is mostly sacrificed in favour of time to market meaning that most tech “gadgets” actually make your life more frustrating.

I’m easily bored so I see my gadgets as entertainment devices. Whereby once I would carry a newspaper or book for bus and train journeys, or to while away the time in the dentist’s waiting room, I can now read these on my smart phone plus do many more things besides.

What I DO hate about technology though is the constant bombardment of information. Because new devices make it so easy to access information or have it ‘pushed’ out to you in blogs, tweets, newspapers, rss feeds etc, I feel a pressure I didn’t use to to have to ‘keep up’ both in my job and in my home life. I hate that. I really hate that. Or am I just feeling insecure and middle-aged?

Many feel pressure to deal with information overload at work, but if you master this it will make your job much more enjoyable and rewarding. You should be able to get tips from colleagues, or just watch the way they work.

From a single smartphone to a bagful of cables and hardware; the weekly tech podcast is live and you can finally find out exactly how many gadgets Stephen Fry was packing when we caught up with him.

We’re also talking with digital data security firm Vigilante Bespoke about our online privacy and looking into the price hike for existing Three customers.

John says:
1 June 2012

I think when people say they can’t live without a certain piece of tech, they’re exaggerating slightly. I pretty much have my mobile with me all the time, but if I had to do without it for a week, would I be able to cope? Probably. Similarly, when I’m travelling, I usually take a laptop with me (either my own or my company laptop, depending on what I’m planning to do with it). I could survive a holiday without one but there will always be something that comes up where I want to use it.

Jackie says:
1 June 2012

I acquired my first mobile after a great deal of pressure from relatives,friends and work. Yes I Agree that on occasions it has proved handy, but I do find it an intrusion and so I am frequently turning it off or allowing the battery to go flat or just ignoring it. I have a PC and a digital camera that I just love messing around with, but again only when it suits me, and yes the PC is extremely handy for keeping in touch with people via email. I don’t watch TV, I find it extremely boring, I don’t like the tablets but my partner has a laptop which I occasionally borrow when I want to sit in the garden and send emails or type letters. I prefer to read my books on paper rather than reading them on the PC or phone. So yes I could live without my technology, have just spent 2 weeks doing just that, sitting on a beach with a good book. The phone?…turned off in the bottom of my bag and getting covered in sand !

Interesting that 91% of people thought they could not do without their mobile. Last December I went to work for a friend at Ardnamurchan point in Scotland, around the time of some severe gales in that area. Due to the weather, roads being blocked and ferries not running it took me 2 days to get there. I arrived to find that there was no electricity, after 12 hours or so there was no mobile phone signal, no landline, no fixed broadband and ultimately no water as the backup electricity supply to the water works had failed.

I suffered acute withdrawal symptoms for about 10 hours, constantly looking at my mobile to see if there was a signal and endlessly booting up my laptop in the hopes of finding a WiFi signal. I then began to experience the most intense sense of freedom! Freedom from the tyranny of text messages about nothing important, endless junk emails, people ringing me about nothing in particular, no TV, not even the Today program on R4, I really enjoyed the thought of the illustrious Mr Humphrys winding everyone up and me not being able to hear it!!. For nearly 3 days I enjoyed the peace and quiet of my surroundings, read my book, chopped logs for the woodburning stove, met and helped local people, went to bed at sunset and got up at sunrise.

I felt a sense of intrusion into my life as services slowly returned to normal, did the world notice or even care that I had disappeared from the electronic noise that accompanies our lives, nope of course it didn’t, I learned a valuable lesson in those few days, real human contact will never be replaced by any electronic means of communication. News from all over the world is everywhere in our lives today and it is good that people in countries less free than ours can make their plight known, but there is no substitute for human contact, and I for one look forward to the next electronic noise blackout with relish!!! And if you email or text me I will get back to you, but only after I have finished the interaction with the humans around me :-))

Brin says:
4 June 2012

Re your opening remark – the report said that 91% owned mobile phones, not that 91% couldn’t do without them.