As I’ve noted before, I”m neither a Luddite nor a technophile. I just like usable technology that does what I want and makes my personal and professional life easier. Even so, I tend to find myself continually amazed by people’s fascination with what they think is “new” and vital in technology. Several months ago, my cell phone bit the dust, and I had to get a new one. I purchased the simplest version I could find. If I’ve counted correctly, which is difficult to do because this device has so many different screens and sub-screens, depending on how many times and in what order you press what, it has something like twenty different functions, and what seems like that many options, with each option having that many sub-options.
My first thought was: “For what?” My second was: “No wonder the number of automobile accidents caused by cell phones is going up.” My third thought was: “Who has time for all this foolishness?”
A great number of people, apparently, given the turnover in cell phone sales with each new version with even more techno-enhancements. But the proliferation of itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie tech gadgets seems to me more of a reflection of a society of navel-gazers than a society supposedly entering a new era, and on the verge of the “spike” or the “singularity.” College students spend endless hours hooked to their cell phones, talking, texting, and seldom looking at their classmates, or reading real novels, or taking a walk and looking at the scenery. More and more people on the streets of any major city — or in their cars — are less than half-aware of what lies around and before them.
Several weeks ago, I posted a blog on the amazing hexagon at Saturn’s north pole, each side something like seven thousand miles long. There was one short article on AOL and two equally short articles in two different science publications, at least from what I could tell. I got no comments, and I never saw much reaction to this amazing phenomenon.
In the night sky are thousands of stars, and they’re just an infinitesimal fraction of the fifty billion galaxies, or more, in the universe, each with an average of fifty billion stars… and we have trouble finding the willpower and funds to even explore and venture out into our own solar system, with wonders like Saturn and its hexagon and rings so comparatively close.
Yet there are hundreds of articles on cell phones, the new X-box, playstation, or Wii, and the fascination with them seems endless. Over 40 years ago, in The Joy Makers, James Gunn postulated a future where the doctors of the future [hedonists] plugged everyone on earth into synthetic electronic personal futures. He clearly anticipated the virtual world that seems to be the vision of the future for so many today. In fact, we already have real commerce in the virtual world, and it’s growing by leaps and bounds.
But there’s a large small problem with all this. Who’s going to fix and maintain the real world while everyone is navel-gazing into their itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie high-tech virtual worlds? For that matter, who’s going to maintain the virtual worlds?
And what ever happened to that sense of wonder about the real world? Or the real world of a future that may never be because no one can look up long enough to find it?