We Have Contact by Trevor Plumbly

technologyI suppose we’ve all got our own ideas about the benefit computer technology has brought to our particular world with the previously unimaginable ease of access to knowledge, information and a broad bank of opinion. The problem I’ve got with all this technological wonder is that other people own and control it and I don’t think that some of them are all that nice. On the credit side, we can now cruise around in our cars safe in the knowledge that an electronic voice linked to a satellite on high will reprimand us if we’re travelling in the wrong direction. I have a voice-activated computer that even barks at misspelt words as well as an iPad that serves as my private library and most folks under the retirement age have telephones capable of everything barring human thought; news and communications are instant, worldwide and available day and night at the press of a button.

Remote Possibilities

Such things, of course, carry a price of sorts: the Americans can send out unmanned aircraft that can drop a bomb practically through your letter box if it so moves them, the Brits can photograph just about your every move and along with the Yanks and their buddies, can record any form of communication they choose to and there’s an army of drones out there spending their waking hours trying to creep into your bank account. I honestly feel that we didn’t do ourselves any favours when we embraced technology. We made it too freely available too quickly; it was just too big a goodie-bag to dump out so suddenly. We dole out things like responsibility and stewardship in real life in carefully monitored doses to ensure that those entrusted with them are capable of managing their use, at the same time as giving children and irresponsible adults an easy access to electronic bullying, all manner of pornography and privacy invasion.

I’m Too Old to be Scared

Which I guess is a good thing for me at least. I have a computer but no smartphone, I avoid Facebook and Twitter simply because the mundane doings of others don’t really interest me that much. Sure it’s a good way for some to maintain contact but cynically I can’t help thinking that a fair few of those that indulge themselves in daily doses of this form of personal promotion are either courting for some sort of recognition, however tenuous, or lacking in self-reliance. But I am scared for my grandchildren: the habit of using a cellphone, for whatever purpose, over and during conversation is now firmly entrenched, despite being intensely rude. The scary thing is that most of these forms of ‘communication’ are in fact anti-social and highly addictive; the genie is obviously out of the bottle so the problem now is to contain its propensity for harm. We should make our kids aware that when they put stuff out there the internet doesn’t care about the author’s well-being or reputation and, to make matters worse, it’s out there for all time regardless of any form of regret. I once suggested that ‘gadget free’ days would be a healthy idea for schools and homes; at that time I thought it was a good suggestion, two years later I seriously think it should be mandatory if there’s any hope of our kids experiencing some form of childhood innocence.

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