Thursday, August 06, 2009

Honk! Honk! "You've Got Mail"

Okay, enough is enough.

Over the years I've been a persistent advocate for new technologies and the resulting cultural transformations that attended them. While I acknowledge that not all of them have had a positive impact on society, I do think that many of these tools have not only increased productivity but also have shrunk our world, erasing artificial boundaries and connecting people across cultures in powerful ways.

And so way back in the early 1980's when the personal computer was just being birthed I bought an IBM PCjr, complete with a floppy disk that was actually floppy and 128KB of RAM, an amount of memory that wouldn't hold one photo of my granddaughter Ashley in today's hardware. (For those of you with more than 128KB, pictures of Ashley are available on request.)

In the years that followed I've Googled and gargled and I've Twittered and twiddled. I've dialed up the Internet with a 300 bps modem, and waited for that screeching sound over the phone that signaled a connection was made. I've processed words and spreadsheeted numbers. I've instant messaged and text messaged, and I've even used my cellphone to make phone calls. In the days before the auto save feature I've written documents of several pages in length and then lost them into the ether, where I assume they await my redemption on judgment day. That's going to be a busy day.

I've paid my tech-friendly dues throughout my career, holding off the luddites, trying to convince them that "Jesus saves" was actually a technological instruction rather than a theological one. The outcome of that discussion is still in doubt, but it's now in the hands of others. I worry.

But today I heard an advertisement on my car radio that launched me into a great sucking sound--an inhalation of air that usually only occurs when I punch the wrong button on my radio and find I've tuned in Rush Limbaugh.

The ad was from General Motors, promoting the OnStar feature in some of their cars, which they describe as an "in-vehicle security, communications, and diagnostics system." Fair enough. I've got no problem with this satellite-based program that reports crashes and dispatches emergency vehicles, not unlike a home alarm system. They say that if you lock your keys in your car you can call an 800 number and they will unlock it remotely. I've never been wild about the idea that no matter where I am some guy in Detroit can lock or unlock my car. But oh well.

Now however comes the stunning news that their program does a series of mechanical diagnostics and then YOU GET AN EMAIL FROM YOUR CAR with the results.

That's it. No more. I'm drawing the line right here. This ain't happening.

I am writing today to the management of General Motors and will be telling President Obama that this has gone too far. I WILL BE ACCEPTING NO EMAILS FROM MY CAR. I was an avid supporter, Mr. President, and I'm calling in my chits. Stop this in its tracks or that picture of you as a newborn baby in a fur parka might just get anonymously sent to the Christian Science Monitor.

I've fought the good fight. But there are times when a stand must be taken and no compromise is acceptable.

Gotta run. My refrigerator is calling. Apparently we're out of lunch meat.