Column: WALL-E’s world?

Megan Grantham, Campus Editor

 “Television won’t be able to hold onto any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night,” stated Darryl Zanuck, a 20th Century Fox executive, in 1946. 

If only Zanuck were around to see how different things are now.

I read recently that the world is in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution.

The first industrial revolution happened around 1760 with the invention of the steam engine. The second came about a hundred years later, characterized by the new mass production of steel and oil. The third came 100 years after that, with the new invention of the internet.

And now, we are entering a new one. Zvika Krieger, the head of technology policy and partnerships at World Economic Forum, explained to CNN how this new fourth revolution differs from the third: “The gap between the digital, physical and biological worlds is shrinking, and technology is changing faster than ever.”

Reading about this new industrial revolution, I was struck by how truly different the world is now than it was 50 years ago, or even just 20 years ago, with many thanks to technology. Obviously technology makes life easier in a vast multitude of ways, but I often wonder what life was like without all the innovations we use on a daily basis.

Americans spend over four hours per day on their phones, according to a 2016 emarketer poll. That’s 16 percent of our day spent staring at our phones. For college-age adults, that number is even higher.

And that’s just our phones. Including computers, television and other screen-related outlets, American adults spend more than 11 hours per day staring at a screen, according to market research group Nielsen. That number is up from nine hours in 2014.

Eleven hours each day? That’s almost half of our day spent looking at a screen. If the numbers are continually increasing each year, how much more can they increase? If we spend eight hours a day sleeping, how much more screen time can we pack into a day?

Screens have largely replaced the need for other, older modes of completing everyday tasks that once required human interaction. You can transfer money into and out of the bank through an app, you can purchase and send pre-wrapped packages as presents, you can get food delivered right to your door.

Tasks that once required real, human interaction are seemingly no longer necessary.

The print magazine and newspaper and movie industries are on the way out, thanks to our beloved screens usurping them.

What would life be like if we didn’t spend half of our days on a screen? I can’t even imagine it, to be honest. I sure bet it felt like there was more time in the day, and that life wasn’t so busy.

I know the world is unarguably a better place now than previous years thanks to technological advancements, but I can’t help but think we’re continually inching closer to living like the people in “WALL-E” sometimes.

Nonetheless, this technology is a part of our lives, and will continue to increasingly consume us as more years go by. We can only try to live a little more in the real world and detach just a bit from the screen.

So the next time you’re mindlessly scrolling, just think that you’re spending half of your day on that screen. Why not try looking at your surroundings or talking to the people next to you?

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Men have become the tools of their tools.” We can only hope Thoreau was wrong.