Every morning I walk two to three miles with one of my dearest friends, an accomplished historian and eclectic thinker. The fact that I choose to do my morning regimen with someone almost two decades my senior and with a hip replacement may say more than I would like to admit about my physical conditioning. Sometimes the cardiovascular stimulation comes more from the vigor of our conversations than the pace of our walk.
Today my friend ranted about technology. I say rant advisedly because he is always open and reflective. But still, it was a rant. He took on cell phones, text messaging, email overload, phones that shoot not only pictures but bullets, kids plugged into MP3 players, and all manner of other technological beast. Bear in mind that in his career he was an early adopter of computers and maintains a home network and an active email life. He's no Luddite. Doesn't answer his cell phone much though.
Our walk extended to the full three miles as I tried to stand in the middle ground between the views of my friend and those of my 27-year-old son--a generational bridge to be sure. It was my son who lured me into this blogging world and who has since barraged me with HTML codes, social bookmarking tags, and FTP sites. I introduced him to the computing world when he was young and he has since left me in the dust. Technology is both his career and his passion.
I'm just old enough and young enough to see both sides. My friend is right--technology can be dehumanizing, rude, obsessive, and destructive of community. My son is right--technology can be liberating, fulfilling, expansive, and a builder of community.
The answer is not in microchips, software encoding, digital music, or celluar transmissions. The answer is in the human heart and in the ability of society to repel the technological profiteers who show no capacity for understanding cause and effect, social relationships, or human consequences. Gadgets must not shape us. Instead we must make gadgets our slaves in building a world that cares for the well-being of all.
Beam me up, Scotty! But please have a warm bath, sharp cheddar cheese and crackers, and a good book waiting for me when I arrive.
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