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Technology is killing us with convenience

Opinion article written by Matt Rilkoff - republished from

A sugar or fat tax is often mooted as a way to improve the food decisions we make but a better way to improve our overall wellbeing is a tax on technology. 

That will never happen. Technology would be impossible to define for tax purposes and it is the way technology is used, not technology itself, that is hurting us. 

Regardless, it's worth having the discussion about how our lives have been changed by technology so we can recognise the impact it is having on our health.

An easy place to start is our obesity epidemic. We're larger and less active than ever before.

The 2018/19 New Zealand Health Survey found 30.9 per cent of kiwis aged 15 and over could be classified as obese. 

That's up from 29 per cent in 2011/12. Should this continue most of us will be battling the bulge before the century's end.  

There are a multitude of reasons for this. Technology is not the only thing to blame.

But last week's news that a $17.20 serving of meat on chips from a Christchurch kebab shop was the country's most popular midnight home delivery was an excellent illustration of how technology is making bad choices easier.  

Not long ago no one had ever heard of meat and chips and there was certainly no expectation they could be delivered to your home at midnight if you had. 

Now, even in small provincial cities, it is possible to answer your chicken mee goreng or burger and chips craving in minutes, without ever leaving the couch. 

No longer are we slaves to putting up with whatever is in the cupboard. The arrival of food delivery services like Uber Eats and Delivereasy makes a pantry seem positively backward. 

Yet home delivery services are actually a backward step for us as a nation. 

At no other time in the history of New Zealand have we needed to curb access to fat and sugar-laden food and at no other time has technology made it easier to obtain. 

If we do eschew takeaways for a trip to the supermarket the results aren't always better. That's because 69 per cent of the packaged food available there is classified as unhealthy because of its high content of sugar, salt, fat and additives.

But we buy it because it's quick, easy and delicious.

Food isn't the only area where poor choices are being facilitated by technology.

It has done away with dozens of small tasks that used to require some level of activity and replaced it with pastimes that require none.

How many calories do you burn scrolling through Instagram? What does a three-hour binge on Netflix do to your resting heart rate? How many of us find the most taxing part of clothes shopping opening the courier bag? 

There's no easy way to fix this. Convenience is addictive.

But at least in recognising that our physical health is affected by our use of technology we can begin to acknowledge the need to use it responsibly. 

Put down your phone more often, choose to visit the shopping mall instead of buying online and perhaps pass on that midnight $17.20 meat on chips delivered to your door.

Have a piece of toast instead. Like you used to. 


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