Hi. It’s your friendly Luddite again, wondering about what might have been, had many of the electronic gadgets we now use never arrived upon our shores; i.e., life without all manner of “smart” things like brainy cell phones, exotic computers and cars that talk to you. I was there before it all, and somehow we never felt deprived or in any way “behind the times,” such as they were.
I’m not suggesting that we trash our mini-marvels — then again, think how fewer AA batteries we’d need — but there was a time when life without apps was quite sufficient and workable. And really, folks, cheaper. Never mind that Apple has already sold three million copies of its latest iPad, which I understand is not all that different from its predecessor, it’s just that keeping up with the latest toys is a financial killer.
So it struck me: Is our life experience appreciably improved within the glow of electronic counseling of one type or another? A few comparisons…
Smart cars — My 13-year-old Toyota Solara lacks a phone, GPS, electronic analysis, television for back seat passengers, a camera for a view from the rear of the car and automatic parallel parking. But it does have a dip stick (not the driver) to check the oil and transmission fluid, a special compartment to hold maps, a rear view mirror, and me to manuever the car into a parking space — all “accessories” that were also available on my dad’s ’53 Olds. (And no cell phones, hence no on-the-go texting that now contributes to as many traffic fatalities as drunk driving. True.)
Computers — For us there was this building one block away that was called a library, and it never, ever crashed. Every morning there was a fresh newspaper on our front doorstep, plus there was a half-hour newscast on our single television every night that seemed sufficient.
Cell phones — We had a phone downstairs and one upstairs in my dad’s study. Long distance calls were expensive, to be sure, but there was no charge pn your cell to fail. And you could book a reservation at a local restaurant then just like you can now. Hoo-boy. No apps, but there was the Yellow Pages where you could find just about anything.
And so forth. What we’ve lost in the dazzle is a sense of self, of privacy, of a better perspective of community and what we were a part of. There’s a lot in the “old days” that we can do without, but much of inherent value that has been lost.
In the face of electronic messages that can flash around the world to an audience of millions we’ve lost the intimacy of one-on-one conversations with neighbors and close friends. Call it a diminishing of humanity. Connectivity that actually is not.
True, I write these words on a computer that serves me primarily as a glorified typewriter where corrections are a snap and correspondence is easy. Ah, but remember how much fun it was to get a LETTER in the MAIL?
There is no going back, of course, because there is no means of short-circuiting the lust to be first with the most modern, the most impressive and the fastest. And that is hardly unique to right now. Being the proud owner of the biggest and the best is an emotion has always been with us. But we never before reached the mild hysteria that is so prevalent now. Again, all of those new iPads; we’ve gone past the point of usable functionality, and that’s pretty close to dumb.
What I lament is the lack of effort by people who rely on machines that can think for themselves. There was a time when we were required to do better than that.