Sunday, November 11, 2007

Technology Is Wonderful If You Don’t Let It Control You

Today was one of those wonderful fall days on the west coast of Florida – low seventies, low humidity, high blue sky, bright sun and very few snow birds on the roadways – simply perfect for a motorcycle ride. Thus, after helping a neighbor in his yard and then meeting two good friends for a late breakfast where we were able to sit outside, I took off on my Harley Road King heading north on Gulf Boulevard. About forty-five minutes later, I met up with an acquaintance at beautiful Sand Key Park -- overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, watching sailboats cutting wakes across the gun blue water, terns doing low flyovers in the shallows and sea gulls gliding high above catching thermals. Every few minutes, however, our conversation was interrupted by his cell phone – or said more accurately: our conversation was interrupted by his answering his cell phone. He never said he was expecting a call and on every occasion proffered, “Oh it’s… it’ll only be a minute.” After the fifth call in twenty minutes, I politely excused myself and got back on my bike. As I rode away I thought about the impact of technology on “quality of life.” An interesting consideration.

In it’s broader sense, Technology is a broad concept that deals with a species’ usage and knowledge of tools and crafts, and how it affects a species’ ability to control and adapt to its environment. In this sense, we have done exceptionally well – as Britannica.com states: “There can be little doubt that technology has brought a higher standard of living to people in advanced countries, just as it has enabled a rapidly rising population to subsist in the developing countries.” As most of know and appreciate, technology indeed has enhanced our quality of life. It is important to remember, nonetheless, that it is imperative for us to control the extent to which and at what magnitude technology affects our lives – specifically, our quality of life.

An internet article entitled “Towards better quality of life through technology” by jim, offers some excellent considerations regarding the usefulness (and potential abusiveness) of technology:

1. The potency of any technology used to make life more convenient, interesting, richer (henceforth, just better) is directly related to the number of people with whom you interact who also use it.

2. When the barriers to adding, modifying and sharing content are low, more people will be able to use it and, as such, the potency referred to in #1 is increased. And,

3. There is a temporal nature to sharing information in that some information is only useful in a certain context. Having information in that context is critical. The ability to not be distracted by that information when it’s out of context is equally critical.

Before leaving the Park, I saw a beautiful, new Kawasaki motorcycle sitting by itself in the parking lot. Nearby, its owner was sitting on a swing. I pulled in next to the motorcycle, and within a few minutes was engaged in some interesting and invigorating conversation with a very friendly rider. And while we chatted, for slightly less than an hour, my cell phone vibrated (and I sensed that hers did as well). However, neither of us answered our phones – we remained focused, politely engaged in our conversation.

As I was riding home, I thought about one of the pearls of wisdom my dad offered to me many years ago -- way before modern technology– it clearly addresses the difference between how my acquaintance responded to his cell phone ringing and how the lady with whom I later was talking and I responded to our cell phones ringing. It is in my latest pop-psych book, Mom and Dad’s Pearls of Wisdom… You Gotta Love ’Em. I will share it with you below:

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Playing Catch

I vividly remember when I started my job as a high school English teacher. Not being that much older than most of my students, I was having a ball.

One weekend while I was visiting my parents, my father and I were talking out in the garage. Like most dads in those days, he was always tinkering with something. As he reached for a wrench he asked, “How are things at school?”

“Oh, I love the teaching part of it,” I replied, “but I’m having some difficulties with some of the other teachers.”

“What kinds of difficulties?”

“Some of them just say the most stupid things to me. They think that because they have so many years of experience they know everything there is to know about education.”

“And, obviously, you respond to them.”

“Of course. All the time.”

“Why?”

“Because they’re talking to me.”

My father glanced at me with a smirk and returned to what he was doing on the workbench. “Son, when you were playing football and someone threw you the ball, you caught everything they threw to you. But now that you’re older and wiser…”

“Meaning…old, wise, tight end of life?”

His response:

Just because you throw me the ball

doesn’t mean I have to catch it.

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Question: Do you stay in control of your technology or do you allow yourself to be controlled by you technology?

Bill

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Although my children chide me all the time, I have no cell phone.
Although I love my computer, I am not a slave to it (yet).
Although I am interested in what a "Blackberry" might be, I do not want one.
And, why, oh, why, would anyone name something "Blue tooth"?
I'm still of the mentality that post-it notes are WONDERFUL inventions!

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello Anonymous,
Yeah, I hear ya. So many people simply allow their lives to be overly-controlled by technology. I also have observed that many people's expectations have increased as well ("I left you a voice mail message two hours ago... what happened? Are you alright?").
Apropos of your Comment, my mother saved all of my snail-mail letters, and when I asked her why ("I called you at least twice a week.") -- she replied, "Because you can't re-read a phone call."
Thanks for the visit... come back again some time!
Bill

Cole said...

Hey Bill! Great post! I can get sucked in as much as the next person but try to control it. And this is in reference mainly to the computer, 'cause when it comes to the cell phone, only my immediate family or the 'current babysitter' has the number. No one ever calls me unless its important. Well, I should clarify that - its a kid or hubby - sometimes the kid's ideas of 'important' differ from mine ;-) but I will answer for them as they are still young, while apologizing to whomever I'm with, telling them its my kids as I answer. =)

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Cole

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Cole,
Thanks for visiting and sharing your experience. From what you’re saying, you’re in control (simply basing your use of your cell phone based on your values – children and spouse are important). Similarly, I only use my cell phone when I’m away from home for an extended period of time or riding my motorcycle – in case of an emergency. As my Dad said, “Just ‘cause you throw me the ball doesn’t mean I have to catch it.”
Thanks again… and a Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family as well!
Bill