Apple Cider: Random Squeezings From a Mac User
Too Much Information
I really do love my grandmother.
Here’s an 80-year-old Italian woman who is very active and robust. She’s always sending newspaper clippings from the Bergen Record to me, of articles written about her senior exercise class or, yes, another meeting with the Mayor noting yet another meeting when she was recognized for her community leadership. She lives independently and keeps her home as tidy as can be. And just give her a chance to whip up one of her signature massive Italian meals, and, let me tell you, you may never look at food the same way again.
The reason I treasure her the most is that she possesses a wealth of family information in her memory. If you ever had a chance to sit down and join her for a cup of coffee, you would be amazed by the stories from her youth. Living through the Great Depression. Her memories of World War II. Meeting my grandfather and watching his dairy business grow. Family triumphs and family tragedies help weave the tapestry of her life.
The one thing she remembers most vividly is living in a world where the family radio, newspapers, and talking with your neighbors were the primary sources of information. People interacted with each other more back then, because they had to. Neighborhoods grew tightly knit through the personal bonds people made with each other.
Fast forward to 2000.
Hold on to your hat, Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Today, the world moves a whole lot faster than it used to. The speed limit on the information superhighway is fast approaching the speed of thought. Billions of dollars of commerce are conducted from the comfort of a customer’s home. Data is becoming the world’s currency.
This increase in the speed of the world has been primarily due to the development and application of advanced technology. While this has made our world a much more exciting place to live, has it necessarily made things better?
Technology, for all of its wonders, tends to make us more isolated than we have ever been before. We drive as quickly as we can from point A to point B with our windows rolled up, stereo on, and an ear glued to the cell phone. People can live for years at a house or apartment merrily watching the 12,965,278 channels their satellite dish provides, or chatting with a goat herder from Somalia on the Internet until they get carpal tunnel syndrome, and never really get to know their neighbors.
Sure, some neighbors are jerks and those other drivers out there may have gotten their licenses out of a box of Corn Flakes, but they are still people. These interpersonal skills are like any muscle in our bodies—the more we use it, the stronger it becomes. With a lack of interaction, we lose our ability to work out problems with people, and the desire to be courteous nearly vanishes. G. Gordon Liddy once said that courtesy is the lubricant of society. It keeps us working together smoothly and prevents a great number of clashes.
Recently, I have stopped and taken notice as to how pervasive technology is. It surrounds us, influences our actions, and turns up in places we don’t really care to see it. Some places where this is the case include:
- Here in the Tampa Bay area, the roads are not exactly the safest places to be. Thoroughfares which were designed for a small permanent population and a seasonal influx of tourists now have to handle a permanent population of more than two million. Since just about everyone here in Florida is originally from somewhere else, there are also a great number of driving philosophies sitting behind the wheel. Being on the roads is a dangerous activity, but I can’t tell you how many other drivers I have seen who are conducting lengthy, animated conversations on their cell phones. At 55 miles per hour, a driver travels 80 feet every second he or she is distracted by answering a call, discussing business, or searching for the call end button. It may not sound like much now, but it may become very important if you are stopped at a traffic light waiting to see if the driver behind you has noticed that you are no longer moving.
- Companies are in the business of making money, plain and simple. Most companies help themselves achieve this goal by assembling lists of customers who subscribe to magazines, purchase products, or use Internet services from their competitors. While this use of technology does pose a danger should a deceptive business lay their hands on a client list, most of the problem with this practice is that it’s just plain annoying. With your information available to whomever wants it, your name, address and phone number are bought and sold as a commodity, which increases the volume of junk mail, sales calls, and spam in your e-mail in box. And—raise your hands if this applies to you—who hates those automated sales calls that make you rush out of the shower or get up from the dinner table? Note to salespeople, if you want to hold on to the remote possibility that I will purchase your service or product, please don’t have computers call me to deliver a sales pitch. Thanks.
While these are some expected concerns, the wackiest story about technology running amok involves a report I saw on the BCC’s Internet Site. Apparently, Levi Strauss, the company most closely associated with blue jeans; and Phillips, one of the largest electronics companies in the world, are joining forces to yes—you guessed it—release a clothing line with advanced electronics integrated into the fabric. According to the report:
The clothes, which could become the essential fashion of the future, enable the wearer to be fully connected to the World Wide Web at all times. Jackets equipped with a mobile phone, a portable audio device, a remote control panel, a microphone and headphones, will cost about £600.
I thought that the whole idea of getting dressed up in expensive clothes was to go out to get away from the computer and meet some real, genuine flesh-and-blood folks. Now, people who really need to work on their interpersonal skills can go out without the danger of actually speaking to and interacting with people.
Isn’t that just great?
Would I trade today’s world, with its modern conveniences, health improvements and higher standard of living?
Politicians love to wax poetic about the simpler life of bygone days. What they never mention is that people died of diseases that we never hear about today, conducted business at a snail’s pace, and had access to only a limited amount of information. Workers were not protected from dangerous working conditions or poisonous chemicals. Simple things such as giving birth to babies had enormous, dire risks.
You can keep all of that nostalgia, thank you.
I suggest that everyone who has to work with a computer all day and everyone who sees computers as a hobby takes up a different type of diversion—something which has no connection to technology. In other words, ditch the pager, chuck the cell phone, and make yourself scarce for a while. My brother likes to go camping. I have taken up woodworking. I also take my son to the park.
I also suggest that perhaps you meet some of the folks you call your neighbors and strike up a conversation. Hone your people skills. Practice courtesy. You never know when these ageless skills may come in handy.
Yeah, my grandmother has seen a lot. From the biplanes and zeppelins of years past to the International Space Station, things have certainly changed over her 80 years. But I have yet to find a substitute on the Internet for the many lessons she has taught me about life.
Also in This Series
- Look How Far We’ve Come · May 2012
- A Year Apart · March 2003
- And now, the end is near… · March 2002
- Spam I Am · February 2002
- The Year of Big Changes · December 2001
- Legends in Their Own Time · November 2001
- What’s in Store? · October 2001
- Hey, I Recognize You! · September 2001
- 50 is Pretty Nifty · August 2001
- Complete Archive
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