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Smart phoney

10/07/2013 @ 9:19am

Some future archeologist may unearth our civilization and discover evidence of a people who were hopelessly dependent on “smart” devices.

Fossilized hands will be curled into poses suited for days-long sessions of manipulating iPhones. Overdeveloped thumbs will indicate an evolutionary advantage for those who were adept at texting. Auditory canals will have adapted to accommodate the perpetual presence of ear buds.

My wife and I are ambivalent about the digital revolution. Sometimes we’re glad for all the connectivity and convenience; other times we feel like we’re dealing with an insurmountable tsunami of technology.

We grew up in an era when a two-way television that was small enough to hold in your hand was the sort of stuff only seen in the funny pages. Yet, lo! It has come to pass that we now possess the same devices that were once available only to the likes of Dick Tracy! Which gives me hope that my much-anticipated jet pack will soon be here.

My wife and I were raised in a time when digital communication meant drumming your fingers on your desktop to communicate to your pals that Study Hall was boring you to death. Telephones at that time had advanced past the soup can and string arrangement, but not by much. A “party line” had nothing to do with participating in a conga at a wedding dance.

Pudgy fingers and clumsy fine motor skills have relegated us to the realm of snail-speed texters. We have learned that auto-correct can be both your friend and your enemy, such as when you send texts that read “spree you spoon” or “have a gouda dame.”

Nothing can make you feel like a bigger idiot than a tiny smartphone. My wife and I often wish that we had an 8-year-old around to explain the operation of our digital devices.

Everyone has witnessed something like this: You are in a restaurant when you notice that seated at a nearby table is a group of individuals -- I’m not naming names here, but let’s refer to them as “young people” -- who are all fiddling with their smartphones. They are lost in cyberspace while real, actual human companions sit only inches away!

One wonders if these young folks are worried that they will cease to exist if they don’t post on Facebook every other minute. Could life continue without Pinterest? If a tree fell in the forest, would it fail to make a noise unless the event were noted by a text containing 140 characters or less?   

Unlike today’s youth, who view computers as harmless silicon teddy bears, my wife and I are somewhat distrustful of these “smart” techno-gizmos. After all, our mental images of computers are things like the nefarious HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey or that feckless space robot who could only seem to cry out, “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”     

But you must swim with the tide of change, or it will sweep you out to sea. That doesn’t mean that change comes painlessly or easily.

For example, not long ago our youngest son decided to upgrade his phone. There was a special deal going on that would enable my wife, who shares her phone plan with him, to get a new smartphone for a dollar. Her flip phone, we were told, was hopelessly outdated. It was an adequate phone when it was new, but that was nearly five years ago. Her phone had become a total dinosaur, technologically speaking.

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