Not smart to let technology dictate our lives

I cringe every time "Smart Nation" is mentioned ("Smart and Sustainable Singapore: Two sides of the same coin?"; July 21).

There is no pressing need to be the world's first infocomm showpiece when many imponderables remain unresolved.

With the pervasiveness of mobile devices, people now talk more but converse less, text more and write less, play more games and read less.

We seem obsessed with change at a high speed and want everything instantly. We pray only to the gods of gratification. If something is speedy, we must have it and will queue for hours for it.

Yet, we won't spare a few seconds to pick up after ourselves.

We look to technology to cure mankind's ills and are oblivious to its running and recurring costs.

The $1.5 billion earmarked to build a smart eco-system is just the tip of the iceberg. The elderly poor whom we hope to include in our inclusive society will be the first to be excluded.

No one disputes the notion that technology will benefit Singaporeans, but it comes with a price that not all have the ability to pay.

A Smart Nation implies that we have a critical mass of tech-savvy users who are adept with technology and quick to adopt its myriad uses.

But technology often becomes outdated by the time the majority learns to accept it.

What good is a society with 100 per cent home computer ownership and ever speedier delivery of daily conveniences if we become impersonal, unsociable and eventually lose our humility and friendly kampung spirit that bind us together as a nation?

Until the Government irons out the details and makes basic smart services freely available or at a very low cost, we are only hearing without listening and talking without speaking.

Let not technology dictate our lives. It is far better for us to be wise enough to embrace it at our own pace and time.

A Smart Nation that gets a high on hardware and not enough heartware is a nation without a face and soul.

David Lam Yan Choon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 29, 2015, with the headline 'Not smart to let technology dictate our lives'. Print Edition | Subscribe