Reflection: Justin Padinske

It is 7 a.m., on a Tuesday and I have a plane to catch.

I wake up to the sound of my alarm coming from my phone. As I turn it off, I see a notification on my screen. It’s provided by Google Now, a personal assistant created by the search giant to deliver, among other things, the most important information to the home screen of my mobile device.

Even though I am traveling, my phone knows my location and updates me with the latest weather report for the D.C. area. I dress for a cold, rainy day and remember to grab an umbrella on my way out before ever stepping outside. Neatly displayed under the weather notification is my flight information, including boarding passes, departure and arrival times, terminal location and seat information.

It even tells me the exact time I need to leave my hotel, based on the current traffic, of course, if I want to be at the airport on time.

As I open the Uber app, I step outside onto the busy, rainy streets of Washington, D.C. A few minutes later, an Uber driver pulls up in a new Toyota sedan, and I am off to the airport. As I’m walking through the terminal, I watch crowds of people gather at the tiny screens to find their flight information.

I smile to myself as I pull out my phone to see my own flight information, updated in real time. My flight has been delayed, but all the new information I need is provided right there on my phone, so I continue walking toward security. Instead of fumbling for paper tickets, security just scans the boarding pass on my phone, and I continue on to my gate. My two-hour flight home is smooth and relaxing.

After graduating from Alvernia, I moved to St. Louis, Mo., to work for a tech startup. I experience technology, especially my phone, radically different now, as it helps me navigate through many of life’s obstacles. It is easy for me to forget that only three years ago I did not own a smartphone.

My brain was shackled and forced, for 20- plus years, to remember and perform many tedious tasks that I have now delegated to my phone. As a result, I have more time to focus on the people and projects that truly deserve my full attention. My life has changed because of technology, and I cannot even imagine how it will continue to change in the next three years.

Will I be able to use my phone to arrange for a self-driving car to pick me up? It certainly seems possible. Alphabet’s Solve for X (formerly Google X) is developing self-driving cars that have already clocked over 1 million miles across multiple states. Meanwhile, Tesla recently deployed a new software update in its electric cars, allowing the vehicle to make certain aspects of the driving experience autonomous.

Of course this amazing technology is largely dependent on quality Internet speeds, and anyone with a phone has experienced the painfully slow free Wi-Fi at coffee shops and cellular dead zones (still better than the AOL dial-up signal). Which is why technology like LinkNYC, New York City’s initiative to turn 7,500 phone booths into supercharged free Wi-Fi stations blanketing the entire city in connectivity, is so exciting.

Despite my enthusiasm for the current and future states of technology, I acknowledge that there may be societal problems, which we will need to answer. However, I would rather face those challenges head on than deal with the life I had before technology helped me manage multiple parts of my life. I have come to terms with the fact that computers are engaged in almost every part of my life. I’m OK with it, and to tell you the truth, I want more!