Tech­nol­ogy can be a dou­ble-edged sword

The Sun Herald (Sunday) - - Your Life - BY KAT BERG­ERON

Tech­nol­ogy can be like a flame.

That flame can cook your steak medium-rare or burn a school to the ground.

Oh, tech­nol­ogy! It can be a time-saver in our lives or a time-eat­ing mon­ster that keeps us on a prover­bial tread­mill like Al­ice’s White Rab­bit. Re­mem­ber him? This Lewis Car­roll char­ac­ter is for­ever declar­ing, “I’m late. I’m late, for a very im­por­tant date.”

Do you feel as time­har­ried as most peo­ple in this hy­per age of tech­nol­ogy use and overuse?

Chris­tian Lous Lange summed it up best: “Tech­nol­ogy is a use­ful ser­vant but a dan­ger­ous master.”

What you should know is that Lange, a Nor­we­gian his­to­rian and po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist, made this ob­ser­va­tion in the early 20th cen­tury, long be­fore there were com­put­ers, smart phones and elec­tronic books. His “new tech­nol­ogy” in­cluded in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gines, tele­phones and au­to­mo­biles.

Sim­ply de­fined, tech­nol­ogy is sci­ence or knowl­edge put into prac­ti­cal use to solve prob­lems or in­vent use­ful tools.

Ad­just­ing to new tech­nolo­gies has been a chal­lenge since an­cient Egyp­tians and Greeks first put spoked wheels on war char­i­ots. But for us in the 21st cen­tury, new tech­nolo­gies are com­ing so fast that our heads spin and “keep­ing up with the Jones” is is a chal­lenge of time, money and con­tin- ually up­dated knowl­edge of how to use it.

“Tech­nol­ogy can be our best friend,” says film guru Steven Spiel­berg, “and tech­nol­ogy can also be the big­gest party pooper of our lives. It in­ter­rupts our own story, in­ter­rupts our abil­ity to have a thought or a day­dream, to imag­ine some­thing won­der­ful, be­cause we’re too busy bridg­ing the walk from the cafe­te­ria back to the of­fice on the cell phone.”

Am I a rar­ity be­cause I do not turn my smart­phone and other techno de­vices into an ex­ten­sion of my iden­tity? I rarely use emo­jis or take self­ies and still pre­fer e-mail­ing to tex­ting, al­though I ac­knowl­edge there are times when a text is won­der­fully fast com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

E-mails, sadly, are be­com­ing as old-fash­ioned as land­lines. With my own mil­len­nial nieces I must text to let them know I sent an email or it will go un­read. Yes, I am amazed by all the so­cial me­dia pos­si­bil­i­ties but I per­son­ally pre­fer small doses.

Still, one of my New Year’s joys was com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Ir­ish and Swiss friends on What­sApp, a smart­phone ap­pli­ca­tion pop­u­lar in Europe. From Amer­ica, I can type, hit the send but­ton and they re­ceive in real time texts, pho­tos, videos, even free phone calls. Amaz­ing.

Per­haps the big­gest tech­nol­ogy im­pact on my 45 years of pro­fes­sional

writ­ing has been quicker his­tory re­search with in­ter­net searches, dig­i­tized news­pa­pers and ar­chives. Re­search may be faster, but the over­load of in­for­ma­tion also throws me into over­load.

I agree with Mitch Kaper, the per­sonal com­put­ing guru of Lo­tus, Mozilla and Fire­fox fame, who ob­served, “Get­ting in­for­ma­tion off the in­ter­net is like tak­ing a drink from a fire hy­drant.”

Add to that a lack of fact-check­ing on web­sites and blogs, pur­pose­ful mis­in­for­ma­tion, too much minu­tiae, etc., etc. Un­less you’re to­tally off the techno grid, you likely can add more etceteras.

As for my­self, I am nei­ther high-tech nor low-tech. I’m an in-be­tween, striv­ing for bal­ance.

That said, I adore my com­puter tablet be­cause it is por­ta­ble, about the size of a thin steno-pad. Best of all, my tablet can pre­tend to be a book. I thought I’d hate read­ing elec­tronic books be­cause noth­ing matches the feel of a real one, but with an E-reader app I can eas­ily ad­just type size and screen light­ing.

I also can check out E-books like real li­brary books, two weeks at a time from my pub­lic li­brary’s web­site. This saves money be­cause I no longer pay for the es­capist fare that a small part of my brain craves.

Of course, I wouldn’t want to read a book on the 22-inch desk­top com­puter used for this Sun­day mis­sive, but this set-up is my pre­ferred writ­ing techno tool. I’ve come far since launch­ing my jour­nal­ism ca­reer on a real type­writer with hard-to-press keys.

When I com­pleted my in­tern­ship at this news­pa­per we were us­ing type­writ­ers. When I later re­turned for a per­ma­nent job, the Sun Her­ald news­room was much changed. The noisy news tele­type was gone and ev­ery­one had com­put­ers and break­ing news at their fin­ger­tips. I adapted quickly to a key­board be­cause this par­tic­u­lar tech­nol­ogy cre­ates faster typ­ing, think­ing and self-edit­ing.

But tech­nol­ogy in it­self is nei­ther good nor bad. That des­ig­na­tion comes from how we choose to use it, whether we cook a per­fect steak with it or burn some­thing down.

The Daily Her­ald, Jan. 13, 1919

This news­pa­per pub­lished this il­lus­tra­tion 100 years ago, when tele­phones were rel­a­tively new.

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