May 18, 2013
Written by Joe Pisani
Thursday, 19 May 2011 00:00
I just learned that a friend I’ve known 35 years doesn’t have a cell phone.
I should add he doesn’t own a GPS, a laptop or an electric toothbrush, which is pretty remarkable when you consider that even 85-year-old Queen Elizabeth 2 has an iPad 2, which I believe was named after her.
He seems like an otherwise normal person, but then, who behaves like that in the 21st century? How can the IRS or the FBI or Apple or his dentist track him down if he doesn’t have a smartphone? He’s probably the only person in America who won’t see his Social Security number splattered all over the Internet.As much as we love our technological toys, they can make us slaves and compromise our privacy. An entire generation of young people squanders its days and nights in playrooms and dormitories, watching flat-screen TVs, playing video games, text-messaging and social networking.
In America, we live for technology, and it’s constantly changing. Before you can master 20% of the functions on your new laptop, another model hits the street, and you’re left in the dust with the cavemen, who use rotary dial phones and manual typewriters.
Some technophiles buy every new gadget on the market, and their brains seem to have an unlimited capacity for user keys while their credit cards have an unlimited capacity for spending.
The more advanced our devices are, the more they become a substitute for reality. Swiss author Max Frisch once said, “Technology is the knack of arranging the world so that we don’t have to experience it,” and there’s evidence of that everywhere.
Some poor souls spend their time dating imaginary lovers in cyberspace while others live in fantasy worlds populated by aliens and trolls.
Technology, however, can’t compensate for talent, I realized after meeting a photographer who used top-of-the-line camera equipment, but whose pictures looked like snapshots my sister took with her Kodak Instamatic. He had megapixel power and a collection of costly lens, but no eye for composition.
And technology has done little to improve our writing skills even though we have computers in every classroom. Those dinosaur newspapermen who pecked on iron-clad Remington typewriters understood good writing more than the Millennial Generation because they spent time reading rather than playing Guitar Hero. They didn’t need spell-check because they had tattered dictionaries on their desks.
I confess, though, that this past winter I paid dearly for being technologically challenged when I stood in my driveway knee-deep in snow, armed only with a shovel, while my neighbors were zipping around with their turbo-charged, solar-powered snow-blowers. They finished in half the time and burned a third the calories.
Albert Einstein, who probably never shoveled a driveway and didn’t own a smartphone, once said, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”
I’m not sure what he meant, but I wanted to include that quote because I found it on the Internet by doing a Google search with my iPad. (And then the Pod People came to get me.)
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