Talk, not tech
Let’s start with a given – technology has been great for productivity and ease of communication over the past 20 years. Here at the Kenwood Press, we accomplish with four people the amount of work it would have taken dozens back in the day. We don’t have to type-set pages. We don’t have to develop film and hope for a useable shot. We don’t have to fax letters, much less send them in the mail. We can send and receive payments instantaneously. So I’m not coming at this from the point of view of a complete Luddite.
But a lot of new high-tech products seem to be solutions in search of a problem. Why do we need Amazon’s Alexa or OK Google to do things that we can do for ourselves? Why do we need the “Internet of Things?” Do we need our refrigerator to tell us that we’re low on milk, and then order it for us from the store? Isn’t it bad enough that people use Amazon Prime so much that they generate mountains of cardboard boxes on a daily basis? Not only are we being trained to give in to every commercial desire, but we’re moving toward a time when our devices will anticipate what we want and order it for us. I don’t know about you, but I’m scared of that. I’m OK with walking across the room to turn on a light or lower a window shade. I need an excuse to get off the couch once in a while. And then there’s the idea of a device inside your house with the potential to listen to everything you say and feed it back to a gigantic corporation that wants to sell things to you, and sell your data to other companies… but that’s a topic for another day.
In the Pixar movie Wall-E, humanity has become so inactive that people float around in pods and robots do all the work for them. The humans’ legs don’t work anymore because they never use them. There’s a scene showing portraits of the spaceship’s captains throughout history, with each generation getting progressively fatter and more out of shape.
Another aspect of this technology-driven era is how devices and products can isolate us from one another while creating the illusion that we’re not alone. I can sit in my La-Z-Boy (yes we have one, and I love it!) and channel surf while texting friends and family and checking my email and Instagram feed. It’s all so great… unless the person on the other end of the device goes silent… or the power goes out… or you’ve finally won a game of Solitaire after umpteen attempts, and now what? I’m just saying, it’s good to get out and see real people in the real world, even if it’s just going out to pick up a carton of milk. I’ve tried to teach my 87-year-old mother how to text and email, but she’s not very good at it. You know what she does when she wants to talk to someone? She calls them on the phone! Can you imagine?
Around here we’re lucky, in that when you go to the market or the post office, you invariably run into someone you know, and a 10-minute trip to the store can turn into a half an hour. But that’s OK. It’s called community, and we need it to survive.