Technology can be a double-edged sword
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.
This newspaper published this illustration 100 years ago, when telephones were relatively new.