Last weekend, as I drove the 30 minutes from Binghamton to Tioga Downs Casino and Raceway, I couldn’t help but consider the opportunities we have as denizens of the 21st century. Technology allows me to travel 30 miles in 30 minutes to gamble electronic money on a computer screen, after withdrawing cash from a plastic card.
However, on my ride back to Binghamton, with my pockets much lighter, I pondered a much different view of today’s technological luxuries. Perhaps it’s not a good thing that we can gamble so easily and thoughtlessly. Perhaps it’s not a good thing that technology has placed all of our vices at our fingertips.
Even if I didn’t have a car or a GPS to bring me to a casino, in our modern age of addiction, I could simply visit a website, download an app or even join a Facebook group to alert me of card games in the Binghamton area. While technological advances have made life easier, they have also made it easier to waste it.
Consider for a moment the tremendous access we have every day to addictive pleasures. Besides the gambling, we can buy cigarettes and alcohol on every street corner and simply charge the purchase to imaginary money we don’t have yet.
Here in America, technology has made food that our ancient ancestors would kill for a vice of its own. Drive-throughs and massive food stores offer us more calories than we could ever need with greater access than we could imagine. And if you are quick to say that food can’t be a vice or can’t be addictive, then you must have never had the “McRib.”
Now consider pornography, one of America’s most prevalent vices. It is really nothing new. Pornographic graffiti can be found on the walls of the most ancient Roman buildings.
However, even the most hedonistic Roman of his time could not imagine the access and variety of pornography we have today. We have smart phones and computers, Cinemax and HBO, all of which can give us access to our most sequestered desires with a few short clicks.
Of course, we can’t forget caffeine, the most popular drug in America. “America Runs on Dunkin” is the proud motto of Dunkin’ Donuts, but after any real thought, that fact becomes terrifying. Like never before, Americans chug the stimulant at all hours of the day.
Waking up with a cup of instant Folgers, picking up a latte from Starbucks on your way to work, having a 5-Hour Energy to get over the afternoon crash and then relaxing at night with some Red Bull and vodka mixers would not be a day out of the ordinary for most Americans.
Technology has given us vaccines, medicines, vitamins and nutrition. It has made travel and the exchange of information lightning-fast across an ever-shrinking globe. However, in a capitalist society, the advances of technology are truly decided by the consumer. For every medical breakthrough we make, there are 10 breakthroughs in porn-viewing technology.
As we push forward into a future that looks brighter every day, eventually as a society, we are going to have to accept that for everything technology can do for us, we will always shoulder the burden of maintaining our own self-control.