Manufacturing & Technology and Technology

VIEWPOINT: Suffering a slow death by technology

March 3, 2008

Somebody help me! I want to go back to the '80s! This technology stuff is killing me. A rotary phone and a busy signal, that's the ticket. Ma Bell: She's my gal.

Simplicity. Doesn't that sound good? I used to think the advances in electron ic technology were a good thing. The early developments were excellent and, like most people, I rushed out to buy them. The iPod, now, that was a great advance. A complete Beethoven collection in a small, private box you could put in your pocket. Your own little world.

FedEx was a good turn with one-day mail and a way to avoid the vagaries of the U.S. Postal Service. The fax machine was a neat step. Instant mail. Progress. But couldn't we-shouldn't we-have stopped right there?

The cellular phone marked the beginning of the end. At first, it was so expensive and clunky that few people would use them. Intrusions were still rare. We also lurched toward air phones, but that was OK because they rarely worked and cost zillions of dollars per second to use. At least you were still safe from society at 30,000 feet. The peace, while it lasted, was bliss.

Then, people started making cell phone calls in cafes. Cell phones started going off at the theater just as the villain was being killed. And people walked down every street on a call! Even 9-year-olds now make cell phone calls to their playmates across the playground. Life began spiraling down. Somebody get me off this ride.

But that was only the beginning. Emails started hitting the screen and we needed laptops at home. We had to get online to buy Internet stocks because they were going up 15 percent per minute. We opened day-trading accounts and e-procurement accounts and book-buying accounts and went into digital chat rooms.

Excuse me; I've got to get off this chat line because my cell phone is ringing. Oh, and I've got mail or is it porn mail or a virus? What will that do to my hard drive, soft drive, CD-Rom, CPU, C-drive, DVD or Blu-ray? Maybe I can call a technician to ask which digital connector I should use? But no, there are no human technicians-just busy signals and digital options.

I've got to escape this madness, but first I need to check my online wireless, my Treo and my Crackberry to see where my stocks are trading. What? They're down 20 percent in the last 10 minutes? Wait ... this cell phone connection stinks ... oops, call waiting, please hold.

Oh, no! Somebody stop me!

It's not the first time these questions have been asked, of course. Each time society has taken a leap forward, technologically anyway, there's been a period for taking stock. Each new advance-from agrarian to industrial, from industrial to high-tech-brings unforeseen consequences that have to be sorted out and thought through.

When was the last time you just walked a trail or went fishing and reflected quietly on your existence for a few hours without your Treo or Blackberry?

I called someone the other day from my cell phone and got a busy signal. At first, I was insulted-the barbarian had no call waiting! Then, I got texted and had two phone calls going at once and realized I longed for the buzz of a busy signal and those old rotary days.

Ignorance, at least in small doses, can be bliss.



Ford is president of All State Manufacturing Co., a Terre Haute maker of food-service equipment, and a principal with Edison Strategies, a Missouri consulting firm.
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