Suresh Menon

Friday - - EDITOR'S LETTER - Suresh Menon is a writer based in In­dia. In his youth he set out to change the world but later de­cided to leave it as it is.

Our colum­nist thinks pedes­tri­ans need text ed­u­ca­tion.

D o you re­mem­ber those sto­ries that be­gan “Once upon a time…”? Well, at the ap­pro­pri­ate age those were my favourites. One in­volved a kind king who wanted to help his sub­jects walk in com­fort. He re­alised that there were stones on the roads, and or­dered his min­ions to build a thin plat­form over ev­ery road in his king­dom so his sub­jects could walk any­where bare­foot.

Then a wise man sug­gested that in­stead of cov­er­ing the land, the sub­jects cover their feet. I might have got some of the de­tails wrong, but I learnt – at the ap­pro­pri­ate age – that that was how shoes came into be­ing.

To­day’s kings are the re­search and de­vel­op­ment teams in tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies. And one of these, ex­er­cised over the fact that tex­ting while walk­ing might be dan­ger­ous, has de­vel­oped an al­ter­na­tive. Keep walk­ing, keep tex­ting, but re­main safe by buy­ing our prod­uct, about sums it up.

Stud­ies have shown that tex­ting pedes­tri­ans take 1.87 additional sec­onds to cross the aver­age road com­pared to undis­tracted pedes­tri­ans.

And it’s not just cross­ing the road. A woman was cap­tured on mall se­cu­rity cam­eras as she walked into a foun­tain be­cause she was dis­tracted by her phone. On an­other oc­ca­sion a man in Cal­i­for­nia was so dis­tracted by tex­ting his boss that he wan­dered into the path of an es­caped bear.

While the ma­jor­ity of us might have read that and passed on, paus­ing only for 1.87 additional sec­onds at an aver­age road in or­der to text that in­for­ma­tion to a friend, one tech­nol­ogy gi­ant has de­cided the an­swer is sim­ple: trans­par­ent tex­ting.

This new tech­nol­ogy is de­signed to help us see what is in front of us (ap­proach­ing ve­hi­cles, ma­chete-wav­ing mal­con­tents, es­caped zoo an­i­mals, a friend you’ve been avoid­ing for weeks, a foun­tain…) while we are en­gaged in the im­por­tant task of tex­ting while walk­ing – or walx­ting, or tex­alk­ing, as

A man was so dis­tracted by tex­ting his boss that he wan­dered into the path of an es­caped bear

the habit might come to be known as.

The ex­cite­ment of “see­ing through the phone” might lead to more ac­ci­dents, but no stud­ies have been done on that yet.

Still, tech­nol­ogy that al­lows us to keep our heads down and con­tinue tex­ting is like hav­ing the ground wear the shoes while you walk bare­foot.

But there are cheaper so­lu­tions. Don’t walk and text at the same time. Leave your phone at home when you go out. Put your thumbs in plas­ter to avoid all temp­ta­tion. Await the tech­nol­ogy that turns the foot­paths into gi­ant screens where you can walk on the letters of the al­pha­bet to send texts.

Text ed­u­ca­tion could be the next big thing. I can al­ready see the movie:

Text and the City.

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