Sunday, 11 February 2007

For Sake’s Sake

During his sellout phase, the cut-up king himself did a commercial for a well-known brand name (just do it) in which he said that the purpose of technology is not to confuse the brain but to serve the body. It had been scissors, and not a word processor, that first served his desire to cut things up. And I do believe that Asian children used scissors at some point to make the product he was pitching.

One might say that the platform used to publish these thoughts connects me to the world. The way this message will be received depends more upon my ability to make myself understood than its method of travel, however. For me to be able to communicate I have to take how I respond to stimuli and convert it into a form that can be received by someone other than myself. For me to communicate effectively, I have to be able to take that thought and translate it into language that someone else can comprehend. Fair enough.

But what of the technology? Did my ability to cut and paste segments of the preceding paragraph enhance or inhibit the significant use of syntax? Where does the fault lie if it was indeed a hindrance?

‘Are you ready?’
Alvin Toffler wrote that the ratio of the rate of modern progress to the ability of the average person to digest it was growing and would continue to accelerate such that it could only result in chaos. As a matter of fact, stand-up comics had already begun making jokes about how their parents couldn’t program a VCR. No matter which comedian’s routine you heard, it was a slightly different version of the same story; but the joke was always on the doddering old fools. An earlier version has the “old man’s” confusion recorded onto the answering machine: “I heard him— he was there, but now he’s not saying anything…” And of course the sound of Mom in the background telling him to hang up. Real Jay Leno stolen from somebody else type stuff.

So there is a distinct difference between whether or not technology helps me, and whether it makes the world a better place for humans to live in general. Clearly it helps individually; Today I’m able to correspond with people around the world — almost no matter where I happen to be — with little more than the movement of my fingers. And I have an extensive number of choices as to which method of exchange I use. As a matter of fact, I can even make my choice based on how soon I want the communication to take place. Furthermore, I could, if I were so inclined, respond to a mobile text message with an e-mail in an attempt to avoid making a date. Non-responsiveness had once been considered antisocial, but now there are ways around that dilemma. “I sent you a message! Didn’t you get my message?” I could play the victim in a miscommunication as well. Is this where the truth lies?

I remember a period of time when I was surrounded by colleagues literally buzzing with Windows 95. It was coming. We were going to be ready. If we didn’t get on board, we’d be left behind. Anyway, it was going to make things so much easier from a logistical standpoint. The next fiscal year was spent trying to adapt to what turned out not to have been ready for us. What followed, once the bugs had been worked out—aside from further getting used to a new operating system, that is—was our need to accomplish more in a shorter period of time because the competition was able to do the same. So what was supposed to simplify our daily function really just accelerated it.

To serve
That last idea is nothing new. I’m sorry I even mentioned it. Of course technology has made, and is continuing to make life better. The entire world is on board in terms of wanting to communicate and do business with one another. That’s the most important thing. Our problems will sort themselves out, and technology is the key to making our economy grow, and when that happens it’s good for everyone, and don’t forget the part about our resourcefulness making our lives better. It wasn’t that long ago that being able to see photos from the other side of the earth of a city under water before the operation to rescue its residents was underway would have been just a dream. Now it’s a dream come true. I was blogging my outrage at the insufficient rescue efforts and eating a cheese sandwich at the same time! It was so cool! I think my comments were the most clever, and my sandwich was with mayonnaise! Well, it was Miracle Whip actually, which is better ‘cause the jar was about a year old or so, and you know mayo. And this is just one example of how human progress is helping humanity.

Why, just the other day the European Union agreed on an idea to finally tackle the pesky global warming. So that we can stop emitting those darned gases into the atmosphere, we’ll have cars that tell us when to shift gears and when to put air in our tires! For those of you who say that this is a nuisance, I should remind you that we still get to have cars! What do you mean it’s gonna cost an extra coupla thousand dollars? It’ll pay off in what we save on gas? How long? Gee, that’s an awful long time…

So when we search for modern solutions to our modern problems, are we serving ourselves or the problems? Is the globe being served by globalization, or Globalization by the globe? Are the latest developments curing our ills, or has modern convenience made life without them unthinkable? Does the economy serve the needs of the masses, or are the masses serving the needs of the market? Or are they just whims being served either way? When every ounce of dough is squeezed out of a consumer when he takes his next step into the future, is he being served as good as he could be? Has my choice of communication made it more effective?