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ATPM 6.09
September 2000


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Apple Cider: Random Squeezings From a Mac User

by Tom Iovino,

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:

Isn’t that just great?

Would I trade today’s world, with its modern conveniences, health improvements and higher standard of living?

Heck no.

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.

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