Offside For Technology

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WHEN the sky watchers wondered about aliens invading Earth and taking over humanity, the views were either dystopian — annihilation for whatever reason — or utopian — they would show the way to a better world.

But maybe we’ve been looking to the heavens too much, not realising that we have been invaded from within.

The impregnation of technology in our lives is almost absolute in some societies, and it continues to spread, accelerating since the computer network that was to evolve into the Internet came to be in the 1960s.

What was meant to aid us in our ways, has wound up taking over numerous tasks that many humans combined to achieve together. Today, machines and robots run many aspects of society, tirelessly working to power cities, helping people move around, facilitating communication, to plan and progress.

We’ve become dependent on machines, initially to do many of the repetitive and dangerous jobs, but, within a few decades, Generative AI has swooped in and started thinking steps ahead of humans, working with humanly impossible volumes of information processed in a blink of an eye, a tap of a key, a mere voice command.

The invasion of humanity has swept through the world, sadly with our knowledge and acceptance.

And it’s far from over.

It may not be the War of the Worlds, but it’s a war within our world and ourselves as those who struggle to fight for the right to hang on to what generations have worked hard for, find it being yanked out of their grasp.

The cinema, reading, television, sports; all the things that made for wonderful distractions have been pushed into our palms. The smartphone rules our lives. Attention spans have shortened, children are kept quiet by moving images on small devices. We find direction and misdirection courtesy of apps.

The Good, The Bad

Money, the thing people lust after, has lost its physicality. Cold, hard cash is no longer king. It’s about what you have in your virtual wallet. 

And with all the technology ruling our lives, other people have been dipping their hands into virtual wallets around the world.

The rise of cyber crime has reached enterprise proportions. Scamming has become a trillion-dollar industry that continues to grow.

And as we get more entwined with technology — IoT (Internet of Things), connectivity, gaming — man and machine will be symbiotically fused. It’s already the case; try yanking the smart device from the hands of a child.

Technology has enabled much good, and along with the good, unfortunately, comes the bad.

Take the simple pleasure of playing football. It used to be the thing to look forward to, kicking around with friends, keeping track of your favourite football team in a league on the other side of the planet. Anticipation fuelled the imagination; waiting for the thump of the newspaper landing at the doorstep, with results of your team’s progress in an important match.

But, along comes technology, to mess with this simple pleasure.

Then came television, and live coverage, and football became big money.

What made football beautiful was the human element. The majesty of players in motion, the swell of spectators in a packed stadium heaving in unison, the moments of magic: the hand of Gordon Banks tipping over Pele’s header in the 1970 World Cup; the hand of God that immortalised Diego Maradona in 1986 against England. Legendary stuff. Inspired by moments of brilliance, magnificent mistakes.

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Does this verge on the ridiculous?

But technology would inevitably work its way into the game, hogging centre stage and making it a different entity today.

In EURO 2024 being played out in Germany, Joachim Andersen thought he’d put the Danes in the lead against the host nation. But his team mate was a toenail offside in the lead up, which meant the goal was disallowed — after a long check by the video assistant referee (VAR).

From that incident, the action flowed to the other end when Andersen again found himself in the thick of things in his own penalty area. This time the ball brushed his fingers from a cross, resulting in a penalty that the referee did not call, but VAR did. The resulting spot kick was converted, and Germany went on to win the match. 

Some may say VAR adds more drama to the game, and that it makes for a fairer outcome. 

But it’s not always been accurate. And it does slow the game down, ruining the momentum of the moment.

VAR has resulted in players running about awkwardly, with their arms tucked behind their backs, to avoid giving away a penalty. Technology has that effect on people.

Why bother having a human referee if VAR is going to measure and call the shots? 

In this age of figures and stats, VAR is spitting out numbers and talking points that add to the data swirl around a game, feeding viewers hungry for more armchair punditry.

How long, do you reckon, before the machines are going to be calling the shots, and people are the hamsters running on the treadmill?

Must technology be everywhere, in everything we do?

While there is much that is good about technology, at which point do we say no to its persistent intrusion into our lives?

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