October 14, 2012

When Technology Gets Personal

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It is the neurotic nerds of society that have been responsible for the greatest advancements, while at the same time introducing numerous devices to drive us nuts. The personal computer is indeed the greatest invention of all time but man, we’re sort of crazy about them, no?  Did you know that 60 percent of smartphone users can’t go an hour without checking them? Personally I have trouble going 10 minutes. As much as I love it, I harken for what we might call a simpler time; when did we get so-so tech obsessed?

At first it was just a watch. They made us slaves to them. Remember watches? Getting someplace from someplace else used to be such an exercise in the zen. “When will you get there?” Someone used to ask and the reply would be something like, “Well, I figure sometime.” And that was it. This whole measuring distances, speeds, whether you stop to talk to someone. That stuff didn’t matter. You just arrived when you wanted to arrive. Our obsessions with order and understanding how things can be categorized all go back to these silly watches and there’s no slowing it down as we’ve moved right into our new favorite personal computer: smartphone.

In some 100 years we’ve gone from pocket to wrist and back to pocket. Think about it! We now carry around little personal computers everywhere we go, obsessively moving from internal thought to external action, swiffing the glass to find an email, twirling it around a finger to take a picture, the other day I reminded myself to get up in the morning. Really, talk about taking it too far. There is now a delineation of age groups whenever someone has to get directions: Those with no personal computer obsession still don’t mind giving verbal directions and writing something down on paper for you to follow. Gasp. Those who have allowed their personal computers to replace these brain articulations get to say, “What’s the address? I’ll just plug it in.” We carry laptops in bags, use recording devices when we feel our phone won’t hack it and read books on iPads. Is all this distraction too much? Is the personal computer the best innovation or the death of our humanity?

The next wave to get us out of the pocket and no longer touching screens in public seems to be coming. All eyes are on the eyeballs. Google’s glasses are all the geek rage. We will want them, we’re told in various articles. There’s a video on Youtube that shows how the glass may integrate with your perception of reality. Imagine pulling up an email while talking to someone, facebooking while eating dinner. A fellow troubled geek at Technology Review (MIT) believes that the glasses will free us from our various devices and allow us more “social grace.” Interesting. One Google exec pointed out, “That we’re trying to make mobile systems that help the user pay more attention to the real world as opposed to retreating from it.” Gosh, I hope so, right? What’s next though? Implants? The future is now, people!

Geeks with glasses, watches or smart phones. What’s the difference? What I can tell you is that there’s no excuse for not smelling the roses every once in a while, now if I could just set up a reminder for that.

Alexis E. Santí is the Coordinator of Travel Safety for Cornell University. He may be reached at asanti@cornell.edu. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.

Original Author: Alexis E Santí