I suppose I've long had somewhat of a love-hate relationship with "technology." On the one hand, I'm a huge geek when it comes to appreciating the latest gadgetry and extolling whatever its virtues might happen to be to others. At the same time, I often wish for a return to simpler times; I wonder what life might be like without all of the bells and whistles. In order to examine this internal struggle of mine, I have chosen to paint a picture (both figuratively and literally) of my experiences with technology. (Disclaimer: My last art class was in fifth grade, so if I fail to effectively "illustrate" my points, please forgive me.
As a child, I had my share of both good and bad times relating to the innovative products of the day. One of my earliest - and fondest - of memories surrounds the family's popcorn machine. Long before microwaveable popcorn became all the rage, we used to "pop" kernels of the stuff in a handy-dandy yellow blender-looking creation. The kitchen appliance was louder than a Harrier jet taking off, but the scrumptilicious results made the loss of hearing entirely worth it.
Sometimes, simpler truly is better. When you're three years old, a cardboard box can provide hours of entertainment, but on my third birthday, I would not be lucky enough to receive such a gift. Instead, my dear old dad, in his infinite parenting wisdom, decided he had found the perfect
thing to complement my suave and sophisticated playground manner. He bought me a Corvette. Well, not a real Corvette, but the kind made for kids to pedal around the driveway. I eagerly hopped into the convertible and tried to start it up. Much to my chagrin, my little leg muscles were a poor replacement for a V6 turbo-charged engine. No matter how hard I tried, I just wasn't strong enough to put the car into gear. Feelings of inadequacy and rejection stemming from this episode would result in large therapy bills much later down the road.
Even at a young age, technology was helping shape who I would become. My brother and I used to spend hours upon hours sitting in front of an old record player my grandmother had given us, listening to the most beautiful songs you can imagine. To this day, I can't help but get "jiggy with it" and feel compelled to "bust a move" every time "The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round" comes on the radio. Classic.
It wasn't always so peachy, I'm afraid. Another traumatizing incident which came out of this time period also involved technology. You see, my favorite television program as a wee tyke was the cartoon "The Pound Puppies." I had all of their stuffed animals, and I made sure to catch their show every Saturday morning. Having just acquired a fancy new camcorder (that was about the size of a shoulder-mounted bazooka) and knowing how much I enjoyed my favorite gang of canines, my dear old dad once again decided to do something nice for me. As I sat in front of the boob tube one morning, he started filming me and asked if I would like to be on TV with my favorite character, Whopper. In the archives of all film and television, I do not know if there is a reaction that has been recorded which was any more joyous and instantaneous as mine was right then as I leapt to my feet. Through a bit of miscommunication and misunderstanding on my part, however, my excitement quickly turned into puzzlement and then proceeded to become outright despair and finally anger. For the life of me, I couldn't understand why dear old dad kept telling me to look at the camera as I stood by the TV. I continued looking over my shoulder, expecting to appear alongside the pound puppies any second... and still
nothing! Why wasn't I on TV? Though my parents attempted to calm my frustration with the situation, I think a little piece of me died that day.The Awkward Years (an ongoing saga)
As I got older, my attention shifted away from animated kids' shows and began to be redirected towards members of the fairer sex. But even here, technology has proven to be a double-edged sword in my life.
On the one hand, through the innovations of orthodontic medicine, I went from looking like an old and particularly harshly treated hyena to looking much more like a grinning baboon. And trust me, that's a step up the evolutionary ladder.
On the other hand, when all you ever talk about with your friends is the parameters and capabilities of the latest video game systems and how to build an efficient and streamlined computer processor, it's easy to forget how to carry on a normal conversation.
I've also found technology can be useful for keeping in touch with others. I've long decried the endless jibber-jabber of people on their cell phones, but then I realized that the reason no one ever called me had a lot to do with the fact that I didn't have a phone. I finally buckled down and purchased one just a couple of weeks ago, and since then, I haven't been able to get people to leave me alone.
Another handy means of staying connected to others is through the wonders of the internet, particularly if one uses such things as Instant Messaging. I must admit I'm addicted to this mode of conversing and can easily spend seven hours chatting with someone on a given night, which amounts to a conversation which, if conducted face-to-face, would last approximately 20 minutes.
Then there's online dating. You answer a bunch of questions about yourself and what you're looking for in a potential mate, and a computer algorithm calculates your "match percentage" with a host of other singles. It can certainly be useful for the more socially inept of us, but it has its drawbacks as well. Finding out your perfect match lives 2000 miles away can be disheartening, but not as much as finding out that out of all of the eligible ladies in the world, you're most compatible with a 400-pound, 46 year-old Slavic woman (who happens to have more facial hair than you do) named Helga.The Tree Hugger in Me Comes Out
Surprisingly, technology offers the world even more impressive benefits than helping lonely guys meet chicks. Individuals and society profit from advances made each day in everything from aerospace engineering and the pharmaceutical industry to the business of producing the world's best grout-cleaning chemicals. But despite these daily advances, it is important to remember that technology does not necessarily equal progress. Global warming, for example, is a serious problem, caused by man's increasing reliance on fossil fuels and the production of greenhouse gases by transportation and industry. Nearly all of the earth's natural ecosystems are in danger of being irreversibly damaged as a result of the technology which spurred on the Industrial Revolution. We may be able to get to the Kwik-E-Mart faster today than our grandparents could 100 years ago (well, assuming there were Kwik-E-Marts around back then), but we have to ask ourselves, "At what cost?"
It saddens me every time I look into the night sky and am only able to pick out a handful of stars where my ancestors would have been able to look upon the majesty of the entire Milky Way. But despite these ill effects of modern day technology, I am hopeful for the future. Because if there's one thing watching infomercials all night has taught me, it's that, "With an inventive spirit and the wonders of technology, anything is possible.... for only three low payments of $29.95."