Stop Right There And Don’t Take Another Step – How Technology is Killing Us One Invention at a Time

Disclaimer: While I wouldn’t call this a rant post (nobody likes a rant), I will stand very adamantly against a prevailing idea. It may seem like I utterly hate what’s happening, which is mostly accurate. However, I do feel that context is important when discussing matters such as these. So, in no way am I against the technological miracles that are being invented these days. I think most technology can be used for good things. But as is often the case, technology is misapplied into making life a little easier and killing us a little faster. And I would bet big money (if I had it) that this new technology will be marketed with the purpose of making profits, rather than helping serve true needs.

Watch this… you don’t need to see the whole video to get the idea.

Honda’s Walking Assistance Device Prototype

So, Honda has seen it fit to invent a walking assistance device (WAD). Splendid! After all, walking is such a strenuous activity. And we wouldn’t want to fatigue our leg muscles or injure our joints, would we?

This is just one more step towards my lifelong dream – to invent a HOVER-PAD for personal transportation. I’m already at work with the Honda research and development department, drafting first-run schematics and big-money marketing plans. After all, we wouldn’t want to overstress our hearts by walking – even with walking assistance devices, which can be so demanding on the delicate human frame. One day, billions of people will be grateful that I invented this Hover-Pad that now allows people only to move from laying down in their bed to standing up on the pad. They’ll never experience fatigue again!

But now that I’m thinking about it… all that standing has got to make people feel awfully tired. I know my legs get a little shaky after a few hours. Ah, I know what I’ll do. The HOVER-SEAT will be born! And if it reclines, it could double as a bed! Time to get a patent for that… (anybody seen Wall-E ???)

All kidding aside, Honda has all but declared war on human physicality. To think that the human body is defective and needing mechanical support is ludicrous. Whether you believe your body was created by a divine being or evolved over countless generations, you must admit that it is perfectly suited for this beautiful environment we call Earth.

Now, like I said before in the disclaimer. This technology can be used for good things. I can think of several situations where walking assistance is a great idea. Namely, when walking is not possible without assistance because someone is permanently disabled. In those circumstances, I think this new technology would help improve a lot of lives. But what worries me is that this technology will be marketed to people who have ZERO true need for assistance while walking. Honda may try to convince us that their device will help improve the lives of mailmen, dog walkers, and factory workers. But what is this WAD really going to do for people? I’ll tell you straight.

It’s going to make them dependent. In the short term, it may feel great to relieve your legs with an extra pair of wheels that you can put on in less than 10 seconds. But after a couple of weeks, walking without four legs will be much harder with just two. The body will atrophy. The body will get weaker. That’s right, these fake legs will position themselves as a crutch for you to rest your sedentary lifestyle on. Hopefully, you bought extra batteries for when you’re pressed for time.

Now, it’s not so much that Honda is inventing a WAD that bothers me. It’s the continuous shift in our culture away from our true physical nature. This device is merely a symptom of a greater problem – becoming more disconnected from our physicality.

Most of us no longer walk to work, we drive. Most of us don’t grow or hunt our food, we push them in a cart and carry them from our car to our kitchen. Most of us don’t have physically demanding jobs, we sit behind a desk for the better part of the day. I’m sure if we put our heads together, we could think of hundreds, or even thousands of common instances where modern innovation has resulted in a more sedentary lifestyle. And innovation is not necessarily the problem. Modern innovation is actually one of the best things for humanity. The problem is that we’ve been using innovation to replace our natural reliance on physicality and the exuberance inherited from it.

The human body thrives from being used. In fact, the human body is one of the few “machines” that actually improves directly from use. The popular phrase, “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” rings true here. On the flip side, if you DO use it, you’ll get better at using it, healthier because of using it, and more likely to be able to do more because you used it.

Ferrari ain’t got nuthin on mother nature

Imagine owning a car that got better with regular use. If you fed the car good fuel, kept it clean, and pushed its limits regularly (driving really fast or really long, etc.), it actually got faster, stronger, more efficient, and more agile. Did you know that if you use your body correctly, you can increase your biological horsepower? You can even install new cylinders, upgrade your fuel tank, and pimp out your exhaust pipes!

The human body is so amazingly adaptive, that it actually improves from direct (and correct) use, rather than breaking down. If you walk X distance today, you’ll be able to walk more than X distance tomorrow. The same applies to all physical activities. Lift 100 lbs today, and you’ll be able to lift more than 100 lbs tomorrow. Run 5 miles in 40 minutes today, and you’ll be able to do it in 39 minutes tomorrow. It’s true because of the law of Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID principle).

You can’t break the law

But the reverse is also true. Walk less today than you did yesterday, and you’ll be able to walk even less tomorrow (maybe not literally after only 1 day, but focus on the concept). Wear a WAD today, and you won’t be able to walk as much without it tomorrow. You can’t defy the SAID law of conditioning.

You see, WAD’s may sound great in the short term, but they aren’t really going to help us.

Just like Chinese food always sounds like a good idea until the next morning (at least American-made Chinese food), and the beer humidifier had high potential until people actually started trying it, WAD’s are no different. They won’t help us in the long-term.

Not to mention the fact that you would be severely limited if you suddenly had to do something other than walk (like catch something that’s falling, run or skip out of the way of a car or bicycle, or lift something heavy off the ground). I can hear them now, “hold on, I gotta take my WAD off before I can lift that. Gimme a sec!” I’m also sure somebody could win a lot of money through our legal system if their WAD battery died while walking on a busy street crosswalk.

And don’t even get me started on the biomechanical consequences of wearing this contraption. They say it will help your joints, but they’re lying – whether they know it or not. I’m sorry, but this device won’t help your joints any more than these shoes will tone your butt and thighs automatically…

So, WAD’s will have all sorts of health consequences and will limit how we are able to function while depending on them. Two negative strikes that are bad enough to warrant a boycott, but certainly not the most profound consequences. This type of technology encourages laziness, ignorance, and a “give up” attitude among other things. I will predict that when these WAD’s hit the markets, droves of people whom are suffering from obesity, lower back pain, hip, knee and ankle problems will flock to purchase them for temporary relief, which will ultimately exasperate their conditions.

So, while Honda is positioning their devices to solve a legitimate problem, they’ll be selling them with the after-effects of promoting laziness and health problems. Just like the peasant who saved the prince’s life, only to have his family later enslaved by the very king whom he saved, Honda will be doing a good thing that has terrible long-term consequences, both measurable and subjective.

But back on point. Our culture is gradually disconnecting us from our physicality. Let me say that another way – our culture is RAPIDLY disconnecting us from our physicality.

So we must ask ourselves: why walk? Or, taken to the extreme: why breathe? Why even live?

It ultimately comes down to this question: why practice our physicality if we’re all going to die eventually?

I don’t know if I have THE answer to this question. But I do have an answer.

Life is a gift. Our bodies are a gift. Even physicality itself is a gift. So, accept it and use it well. We won’t be able to enjoy it forever. You can’t predict or prevent what happens tomorrow, but you can control what happens today, right now. There are some things which we do have control over, like your health and fitness. Making them a priority is honoring the gift of life you’ve been given.

So, when someone asks you, “why do you workout?” or “why do you take the stairs when everyone else is on the escalator,” or any other question relating to why you make your health and fitness a priority, you can tell them that you’re doing it because you love the gift of life. And hopefully, you’ll intrigue them enough to open a door to share why you truly love Physical Living with others.

I’m confident that this message will resonate with my readers because you are part of an elite sub-culture who understands the role that physical living plays in our lives. No, this was not a top 10 list of practical ways to improve your life, but it was something to think about, to ponder what others often ignore or never recognize. The truth is that practical advice doesn’t help us nearly as much as practicing the principles on which they are based. And this is exactly why I like to balance the information I share on Physical Living between a) immediately helpful and practical tips and lifestyle strategies, and b) advice that will help you long-term, regardless of which way you express it.

Unlike the philosopher René Descartes, you know that our bodies are much more than just a vessel to carry our mind and soul around in. You know that physical health is deeply intertwined with our mental and spiritual health. You don’t need to be convinced. You love physicality, and there’s nothing left that needs to be said about that.

So, why do you practice physical living if the end-result is already decided?

To your health and success,

CST, CST-KS, NSCA-CPT
Fitness Professional

13 Responses

  1. nice post John…I posted the same sentiments a while back…how do we change this trend?

    • Thanks Josh. We change the trend by helping people fall in love with physical living.

  2. I just can’t believe this! Nobody in Honda can see the negative impact of the WAD? The guy who thought about it really sold his idea.

    The worst of it all is that we are in an economical crisis, this WAD will be most likely expensive and people WILL buy it.

  3. Hey John, your hover device was already invented… didn’t you watch Wall-E ;-) If you haven’t seen it yet, you should. I think it painted a pretty good picture of where we are headed.

  4. Hey John, I love the idea behind your post. I was talking to a 15 year old the other day who tried to convince me that video games were a sport. lol. Im glad my parents kicked me out of the house and made me play outside as a kid. Our culture is defiantly getting lazy. As far as that WAD thing, hopefully it never gets past the concept stage except for helping the disabled. Man, reading this makes me want to go for a run. The site looks great. Ill be looking here for sure for ways to put on the pounds. Thanks!!

  5. Great article John.

    Nick: the Wii phenomenon irritates me. Why would people spend so much money on a game console, electricity just to play stupid games? They are not realistic at all. Just go out and play the REAL sports. It is much cheaper and fun.

  6. Hi John,
    I love what you are doing with Physical Living, and I think this post
    brings up an interesting discussion regarding human dependence
    on technology. Someday soon all those nifty little time and labor saving
    devices won’t be available, and what are we going to do then? I look forward
    to reading more about your simple and tech-free mehods for living an
    active life.

    Peace.Tobias.

  7. I’ll start with what I like:

    Promoting physical fitness is a valuable mission, and an important one in a society that is rife with sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy foods. Kudos, it’s needed.

    “Making [health and fitness] a priority is honoring the gift of life you’ve been given.”

    Very true!

    Unfortunately, there’s more of what I don’t like in this article.

    You make a TON of propositions without any proof whatsoever. Grand sweeping statements that simply aren’t scientifically sound, and these readers eat it up and then spread the false information to others, a big no no for me. At least provide some links to back up what you say.. I won’t cite every example, but the more prevalent ones deserve being addressed:

    “WAD’s will have all sorts of health consequences…They say it will help your joints, but they’re lying – whether they know it or not.”

    The question that immediately comes to mind, John, is do you know it or not? You can’t say that it does alleviate joint stress and you can’t say that it doesn’t, without proof, or at least some sort of coherent contemplation.

    “Whether you believe your body was created by a divine being or evolved over countless generations, you must admit that it is perfectly suited for this beautiful environment we call Earth.”

    While our evolution is a remarkable thing, biologists, medical experts, and convergence engineers now would tend to disagree with that (Ray Kurzweil, Aubrey de Grey, Robert Frietas). There are many biological processes that are inefficient in modernity, and technology intends on replacing those outdated systems; red and white blood cells for example are inefficient and there are already designs to replace them called “respirocytes” and “microbivores” by some brilliant scientists in the field of nanorobotics.

    Consider also the fat insulin receptor gene: a gene that moderates the amount of fat your body stores; initially an evolutionary mechanism designed to store calories between hunting seasons, it finds itself impractical in a society that doesn’t have trouble getting food at all. Luckily we have gene therapies and drugs in the works to alleviate this (RNAi, in vivo viral gene therapy). This technology will provide more benefits (unfortunately, but thats the world we live in) than physical fitness does in addressing the obesity problems.

    The title of the article is “Stop Right There And Don’t Take Another Step – How Technology is Killing Us One Invention at a Time,” yet though I read it several times, you don’t really address what you set out to. I understand the concept – shortcuts make you lazy, laziness makes you unhealthy. But this has nothing to do with the phenomenon of technology or how it evolves, or why we should or should not embrace it.

    “I’m confident that this message will resonate with my readers because you are part of an *elite sub-culture* who understands the role that physical living plays in our lives.”

    probably the most presumptuous thing I’ve ever read, and considering that this sub-culture is now less well informed than before they had read your article, I would redefine your idea of elite.

    It really rubs me the wrong way when people use their opinions, not truth, to serve an agenda. False information influencing popular opinion on technology literally kills millions (Genetically modified foods in Africa are being impeded by moralists like Green Peace without any scientific argument).

    What I’m trying to say is there are two sides to every coin, John, and the internet is a powerful tool with which we can inform ourselves beyond assumptions. It’s your responsibility as a writer to bring readers closer to the truth, even if that truth makes you uncomfortable.

    P.S.

    “the end-result is already decided”

    Death is not scientifically inevitable.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ray_kurzweil_on_how_technology_will_transform_us.html

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/aubrey_de_grey_says_we_can_avoid_aging.html

    • Hi Ben,

      I very much appreciate hearing your thoughts on this, even if we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. And thank you for the kind words, too. I’d be happy to discuss with you and explain my views.

      Although, I’m really not sure what point you’re trying to make other than questioning my credibility. Do you disagree that the Honda WAD’s, in particular, the devices demonstrated in the video, will not have health-diminishing side-effects?

      You wrote:
      “The question that immediately comes to mind, John, is do you know it or not? You can’t say that it [WAD] does alleviate joint stress and you can’t say that it doesn’t, without proof, or at least some sort of coherent contemplation.”

      It wasn’t my purpose for this article to prove that the WAD will create problems, but rather to create a discussion – like this one that we’re having now. Whenever somebody wants proof, I’ll do the best I can. I think it’s self-evident that WAD’s would lead to health problems, much like it’s self-evident that walking with a limp creates imbalances in the body that are unrelated to the actual injury which created the limp in the first place.

      WAD’s absolutely will have health consequences, and we don’t need proof such as in peer-reviewed research to demonstrate this (which can only happen after the fact, and usually after many people have already suffered the consequences of being misinformed). I don’t even need to use the device to know this – watching a video of it being used is enough to see how it affects human locomotion. We know the laws of conditioning and that tells us that everything we subject ourselves to has physical consequences, whether good or bad. If you exercise well, you will receive benefits. If you exercise poorly, you will suffer health problems. It’s the same with anything we subject ourselves to, even how we walk. The laws of conditioning dictate this.

      • Law of Outcome: Whatever you do produces an outcome, regardless of how you value that outcome. (If you use a WAD, it will produce an outcome in your body, whether you want that outcome or not.)
      • Law of Adaptation: Whatever you do over a period of time creates a change in you to find homeostasis, regardless of how you value that adaptation. (If you use a WAD over a period of time, your body will actually change to make itself more suited for using the WAD.)
      • Law of Progress: Whatever you do with continually increasing volume, intensity, density, or complexity becomes more easily repeatable, regardless of how you value the progress. (If you use a WAD most or all of the time, then you will get much better at walking with the WAD, and walking without it will become more difficult.)

      For instance, anyone who has used crutches for an extended period of time knows that there are usually negative side-effects. While an injured leg may be healing, the way you travel with crutches changes everything about your movement and posture/structure while walking. Many people who go on crutches for a long period experience shoulder and elbow problems after a few weeks of use because your body is now relying on an unnatural movement for basic transportation.

      Similarly, the WAD’s that Honda is creating will change the way we move into a clearly unnatural movement pattern – movement that is not within our true nature. Unnatural movements always create health problems because of the laws of conditioning, and it’s obvious that the people using the WAD’s in this video were not moving with efficiently effective biomechanics.

      Do you disagree?

      See here about how I define natural movement:
      http://physicalliving.com/natural-movement-doesnt-come-naturally-you-werent-born-perfect/

      I’m not saying that technology couldn’t be created to assist with walking in a positive way. On the contrary, I think this particular device could be great for certain situations, as I noted in the article above. Just like canes and walkers serve a very specific need, other devices can help, too. However, this particular device, as shown in the video will also have side-effects (which are not mentioned in the video). That’s not to say that a more refined device that could minimize side-effects couldn’t be created, but I think impeccable attention to detail must be taken when constructing anything that affects such a common human movement as walking. And quite frankly, I don’t think we’ve advanced to that level of science yet, before we could safely roll out a device on a large scale to the general population.

      We know from exercise machines that one size definitely does NOT fit all, even with adjustable pads. Think about the difference between a suit bought at your local department store, and a tailored suit – then magnify that to the extreme of how human movement affects the body structurally using biotensegrity as our model of human anatomy, and you’ll begin to understand how complicated it would be to create a WAD that would minimize injury and could work for any body type. We just haven’t gotten to that level yet.

      In cases like this, it’s important to understand that there is a risk to benefit ratio involved. For some people, the benefits of using a WAD outweigh the risks, and vice versa. The same is true of crutches, canes, and walkers. Nobody is debating that.

      Technology is not the problem, it’s the misuse of technology. The point of the article was to help my readers understand that technology isn’t always a good thing for our health, and to always evaluate for themselves the risk:benefit ratio before blindly accepting new technology as a miracle solution for common problems – especially when big name, credible companies are creating and marketing them, which gives off a signal to consumers that the product has been validated as safe and effective for its given purpose (which is not always true, especially when major profits are involved).

      You wrote:
      “While our evolution is a remarkable thing, biologists, medical experts, and convergence engineers now would tend to disagree with that” [that our bodies are perfectly suited for the environment]

      You’re right, we disagree.

      Whether or not we are perfectly suited to our environment is a valid discussion point, and there are many facets to this argument. It’s not a cut and dry topic, and I see it as a situation where there are arguments that make sense from both sides, but nothing that would make me say it’s obviously one or the other. We just don’t know the truth, rather we choose to believe one side or the other.

      Perfect is a strong word to describe how our body fits in with our environment, but I used the term perfect for a reason. Part of the reason I said this is because I do not believe in the theory of evolution, but that a Creator made us physiologically perfect for the world in which He created us. You and I disagree on this point, and therefore our worldviews are different. Yes, it’s my opinion, and I don’t see how sharing it on my website is an issue at all.

      Even though well-educated people would disagree with me, I’m not convinced that we are evolved beings. So, there’s little value in arguing this point. If we both believed in evolution, then there could be a reasonable debate, but this isn’t the case. So, we simply disagree.

      I’m actually going to touch on this topic in an upcoming article about a creationist’s response to evolutionary fitness, which you can watch for in the future.

      You wrote:
      “probably the most presumptuous thing I’ve ever read [that Physical Living readers are well-informed], and considering that this sub-culture is now less well informed than before they had read your article, I would redefine your idea of elite.”

      I think it’s even more presumptuous to assume that my readers are not well-informed, especially coming from one who has brought up some good points. You are one of my readers, too :)

      Each of my readers is fully capable of deciding for themselves what to believe, and I hope nobody will convince them otherwise. Actually, I often remind my readers to double-check everything that I say because I am quite open to the possibility of being wrong. I’ve been wrong before and I can be wrong again. I don’t use my website as a channel for truth, but rather for a channel for sharing my views. You may take them or leave them. I’m not trying to please everybody, but to share my convictions. If you’re looking for the truth, look elsewhere, and let me know when you find it.

      As with any publishing, you will have people who take anything that is written as absolute truth. It’s sad, but unavoidable. Hopefully, this is the exception, not the norm.

      If anyone has a disagreement with me, I’m open to hearing it.

      You wrote:
      “It really rubs me the wrong way when people use their opinions, not truth, to serve an agenda. False information influencing popular opinion on technology literally kills millions (Genetically modified foods in Africa are being impeded by moralists like Green Peace without any scientific argument). What I’m trying to say is there are two sides to every coin, John, and the internet is a powerful tool with which we can inform ourselves beyond assumptions. It’s your responsibility as a writer to bring readers closer to the truth, even if that truth makes you uncomfortable.”

      You’re absolutely right, that there are 2 sides to every coin – and often a balance between them. Within many arguments, the discussion is more important than the conclusion. There are countless cases in science and research where we simply don’t know the truth, and we have to make a decision about how to live regardless. We use all the information we have, but it’s seldom enough to confirm absolute truth.

      You wrote:
      Death is not scientifically inevitable.

      I won’t even go there :)

  8. Cheryl Malone

    I don’t think this technology is acceptable for anyone who has legs; it might be a good device for amputees but to keep someone from getting their legs tired is ridiculous. Exercise muscles to build strength. We have become such a lazy species.

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