Tuesday, February 5, 2013

With every technological advance, there are less and less reasons for us to actually see one another

My wife and I recently had a "debate" with our 18-year-old, the youngest of 3 boys. I say "debate", because it might have only lasted about 20 seconds, and was without those pesky time-wasting "point/counter-points".

The topic was Technology, and I surprised myself by taking the position, "technology, bad". My wife, who has on more than one occasion recently made known her desire to live on Walton's Mountain, agreed with me. My son provided a spirited defense and contrarian view by emphatically stating, "I can't believe you two are against technology."

I think I won the debate with this verbal roundhouse knockout: "Technology bad because I said so!" He never really saw that coming.

I've thought about this since. It's not that I feel that all technological advances have been bad. For instance, I am happy the caveman invented the wheel. And at some point, "FIRE! GOOOOD!"

For me, it boils down to whether these so-called "advances" lead to more human interaction or less, not just whether or not some new thing makes a task easier. The caveman's wheel allowed us to travel to and visit other communities,and the campfire allowed for more communal congregations (as well as blackened haunch of mammoth). So from my prism, Fire good, wheel good.

But what about recent advances in this digital age? Have these improvements we've enjoyed over the last few decades led to more or less human interaction?

Tweet, Facebook or text me with your answer, as I can't remember the last time I've actually seen most of you for us to have this conversation in person.

As some of you know, I enjoyed a 30 year career in newspapers. When the digital comet hit, I blogged about it on a few occasions:

A Paperboy's Tale Of Unrequited Love
Confessions of a Tree Killer
Confessions of an ex-Tree Killer
FOR SALE: Slightly used newspaper press
The newspaper implosion continues

Too bad for you DaBlade, but if you had it your way we'd all be riding around in a horse and carriage! Lots of people lost their jobs in carriage and buggy whip factories when the automobile was invented. Maybe we'd be better off getting our news, information and advertising on stone tablets?

Maybe you haven't been paying attention, mister disembodied voice and disenfranchised mind. The transition from horse-drawn buggies to horseless carriages improved travel, thereby expanding human interaction. Can the same be said of this digital world?

I admit to being conflicted here. I am a voracious consumer of internet-based news. I read books predominately from my Kindle. I blog (though many would wish otherwise). I'll concede these products improve the medium, but at a cost of human interaction.

There are no trucks or warehouses staffed by folks inserting, bundling and otherwise preparing these digital bytes for timely loading to the internet's back dock. There is no delivery force working through the night hours distributing these packets of data, waving to customers waiting on their front porches somewhere each day on a suburban internet router. No door-to-door weekly bill collections, conversations and human interactions that will never be again.  

Maybe it's just me, but I miss some of the simpler things that my sons will never experience.

I miss frequenting the local Borders, sipping a cappuccino while browsing the latest book selection to the song stylings of a local unknown sitting on a stool in the corner and playing his acoustic guitar.

I miss perusing the VHS movies at Blockbuster Video and getting spontaneous recommendations from strangers who notice you reading the back cover of a movie you're considering to rent.

I miss visiting the local Harmony House music retailer, not remembering the name of the artist or song I heard on the radio, but humming a few bars for the ponytailed salesperson and leaving with a new vinyl record or cassette.

I even miss pulling up to the regular pump during the winter, getting a fillup while never leaving the warmth of the car and paying the gas station attendant a $5 bill (including tip)

I miss TV Guide magazine, and going through each new issue in search of any listed Steve Martin scheduled appearances on variety and/or talk shows.

And of course I miss dirty black newsprint on my hands.

Now it appears that America's malls are the latest dinosaur in the crosshairs of the digital comet.

Like many men my age, I have never enjoyed the mall shopping experience. I've never looked forward to having to park in a different zipcode from my destination - fighting crowds and long lines of elbows and attitudes, paying confiscatory prices just to get the heck out of there, only to spend the rest of the weekend looking for my car. 


That said, it will be sad when they are gone too.

I saw somewhere recently where kids who stayed home sick from school were able to log in remotely and participate. How long before this is what public education is?

In the not-so-distant future, we'll have no reason to unplug ourselves from our pod.

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