Saturday, June 22, 2024

Students weigh risks of smart technology

Apple Watches, Fitbits, Alexas, smartphones and smart TVs. All of these technologies have found their ways into the homes, and dorms, of many. They make everyday tasks such as finding the weather, communicating with friends and counting calories easier than ever before. But few might know the risks they have on our environment and on our minds.

Plattsburgh State psychology major Alyssa Hennessy delves into the ins-and-outs of the relationship between the human mind and technology.

“Face-to-face contact has gotten harder since technology has improved because people are glued to their phones,” Hennessy said.

Hennessy believes that technology has transformed the way we entertain ourselves and communicate with people. She said it has created shorter attention spans and makes people more distracted.

“We’re less productive because we all want to check our social media or messages,” Hennessy said.

While she points out that technology such as an Apple Watch or smartphone does help with multitasking, it’s also a risk. 

“Having everything available to you at your fingertips can affect your mood depending on what you receive,” Hennessy said. “You can see what anyone is up to, and that can cause self-esteem issues.”

Hennessy said that while these devices may not affect the brain directly, it’s more of the convenience, and easy access to social media and messaging can ruin moods and overall well being. 

She also said people can become too dependent on knowing what’s going on in the virtual world and putting up a sort of virtual facade where they forget to actually interact with the real world. 

When it comes to the environment, these types of technologies could help and hurt us. 

Nicholas Abbott, PSUC junior environmental science major with minors in applied geographic information systems and computer science, explains what impact these technologies have on the world and ourselves.

“Technologies that are powered by artificial intelligence such as an Alexa, Apple Watches or iPhones learn to be more efficient as it is used,” Abbott said.

Abbott said products such as Nest and Google Home learn specific attributes about the user’s daily routine to streamline the experience and make their home more efficient. 

“From this information, the system will learn to perform everyday tasks for the user, [like] automatically allow or deny electricity to lights or appliances after they have left for work or automatically lower the house temperature at night by 3 degrees,” Abbott said.

The main issue, Abbott said, is the waste that these kind of technologies create for the environment. He also explains that these technologies create a high energy usage as well because they are constantly on standby.

“Increased technology is accompanied by increased energy demands, which likely means a few more million pounds of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere,” Abbott said.

Even with environmental risks, PSUC junior education major Paige Potter still uses her Apple Watch every day, with the exception of letting it charge while she sleeps.

“It’s more convenient,” Potter said. “[It’s] like having your phone on your wrist, so every time it vibrates, I check it right away, so I guess it’s kind of never-escaping technology.”

Her Apple Watch keeps track of her activity and workouts. Since she has it loaded with her cellular data and GPS feature, she can leave her phone at home and just rely on her watch. 

Despite using it every day, she said she wouldn’t have spent the money on it herself; she got it as a Christmas gift. Even though she didn’t purchase it herself, she does find that it is worth its price tag, which ranges anywhere from $279 to $799 on

“It’s worth the money, especially if you like it, find it useful and wear it every day just like me,” Potter said.

While Apple Watches remain popular, another advanced technology intended to make everyday life easier would be the Amazon Echo, or more commonly known as Alexa. 

According to a Business Insider article, Alexa is unique because her latency time is one second while the average of other voice-recognition technology is two and a half to three seconds. Latency is the time it takes for a voice-recognition software to respond to the question it is asked or command it is asked to carry out. 

Besides playing music, reading out recipes, updating you on news and making grocery lists, Alexa can now do much more because of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. Alexa can check bank account balances, order an Uber and even order pizza. 

Alexa is now one of Amazon’s biggest hits and was one of the top five ordered items on Christmas Eve through Prime Now.

While each of these technologies have faults, they also have positives and can aide in people’s everyday lives. Technology comes and goes but, our minds and the planet we inhabit are here to stay, and so one can only hope to improve both in the future.

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