Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Technology Blues

NOTE: I wrote this piece just for fun! No hidden message. No serious content. I was just having a good time -- which is actually the theme for today. Enjoy yourself! Time is on the wing. And as 'they' say, Don't take yourself so seriously!

One day soon the Gillette company will announce the development of a razor that, thanks to a computer microchip, can actually travel ahead in time and shave beard hairs that don't even exist yet. Dave Barry

Websters' defines 'communication' as 'an exchange of ideas or knowledge'. To a computer hacker that definition is lost in a technological vortex of bits, bytes and baud that Websters' never thought to define. The technology driven information revolution has not only invaded the workplace, it has completely redefined our vocabulary and our ability to communicate; assuming that these days we communicate person to person and not with some technological device acting as intermediary.

How we communicate has become more important than what we say. "Stay in touch" used to mean writing an occasional letter. Now it is impossible to get out of touch, even for a moment. Planes and boats and trains may take me away but I can always be reached, no matter where I am. Once havens of relative quiet, the car, boat and jet have become mini communication command posts allowing me to beep, transmit, send and receive messages from around the world faster than you can say, "Supercalifragilisticexpeallidocious" - and I'd best not forget to call home - someone may be trying to reach me.

Simple face to face conversation has been replaced with machine talking to machine as the once innocuous game of Tag! You're it! is supplanted with directions to leave a message at the beep. Where once the sight of someone talking to themselves as they walked down the street would have been cause for concern, it has become commonplace. Inevitably the person holding the conversation is speaking into a tiny, barely discernible microphone hanging around their neck or protruding from their ear like some Star Trek warrior on a mission to save Planet X. I'm always amazed when they don't suddenly disappear with a shout of, "Beam me up, Scotty."

Cellphones snuggle in the hip pocket and Gucci knock-off bag of every Generation A,B,C to X,Y,Zer. Ipods hum a zillion tunes. Mini-movies adorn the screens of hand-held devices while the names of these tiny devices defy logic. Pearl. Curve. Jack. Razr. Bold. TouchPro WiFI GPS. Diamond. Crazr. and if you can't make up your mind, try a Pay as You Go.

Go where? I wonder? Oh well, if I'm lost, I'll just ask my cellphone for the answer to that ubiquitous questions, "Where am I?" It's sure to answer.

Common English has been replaced with a thesaurus full of buzz words and techno babble that promises to keep it simple but requires a 5 lb manual to explain the inners and the outers of working with any given device. No wonder we're a stressed out, maxed out society. The instruction manual we were handed at birth didn't include batteries! You did get your instruction manual? Right? If you didn't, don't worry. Just google the question, "Who am I?" and some unseen algorithm will prioritize an evaluation of your question and parse the language to give you 1,372,000 possible answers in declining order of relevance.

Yup. It's a complex world we live in, Master Jack. And getting stranger by the nanosecond.

It's becoming a little bit intimidating when my computer and my cellphone are on the same wavelength and I can't figure out what they're doing. Perhaps they should get married? As it is, my computer answers my calls, FAXes my response and updates my files without even turning the lights on. Who cares if we're on the same wavelength? As long as my machines are compatible I'll never have a breakdown in communication.

It's a challenge to keep things in perspective when the old phrase, "I'll call you" needs to be clarified with technical dissertations on baud rates, mailbox ID and software compatibility. Remember when incompatible meant two people did not get along? These days it can indicate a host of technological problems from Trojan horses to worms. "Help! My data's being eaten by a worm and I'm infected with an unpronounceable disease!" Let's keep the lines of communication open takes on a whole new meaning when first you need to shield yourself from infection.

In the Bible it is written that, "Evil communications corrupt good manners," but who can say what is good or bad manners when face to face is usurped by baud to baud. If Emily Post ever heard of terminal sex it wasn't a virtual reality scenario as much as a real, life and death situation. I doubt she ever had to face the question of whether or not it is good manners to have computer sex before or after your terminal is turned on. In the 'good 'ole days' courtship was simple. Boy met girl, they dated, they married, they had a family. Dating, however, takes on a whole new meaning when two strangers meet in the comfort of an online dating room where face to face interaction becomes a question of which social utility network they'll use to interface. "Hey! Should I Facebook or Myspace you?"

Technology has irrevocably changed the communication process but we seem to be missing the messenger. All the technological advancement in the world cannot replace face to face conversation. A disembodied voice whispering sweet nothings in your ear will never replace the feel of someone's warm breath tickling your earlobe and tears lose their emotional context when filtered through the plastic arm of the receiver.

The Greeks had it easy. The gods hurled thunderbolts that shook the earth and got the message across. If the news was bad they killed the messenger. It is difficult to kill the messenger, however, when the messenger is a satellite orbiting the earth at lightening speed, its transmissions searching out targets like heat seeking missiles and invisibly radiating data across the globe. Good or bad, messages are anonymously received by electronic devices incapable of emotion and devoid of any charm.

We appear to have been hoisted upon our own petard. But our nemesis is in the form of integrated circuit boards quietly humming their way through space as we continue to FAX, phonemail and mailbox drop our way across the universe.

Space may be infinite, but the earths' atmospheric capacity to beam up, process and redirect tiny bits and bytes of information must have a finite scale. As the mass of messages spinning their way across the skies thickens, our ability to absorb the data is thinning like the ozone layer.

Perhaps someone should invent a microchip to translate communication transmissions into ozone. We could patch up all the holes and get rid of global warming. The planet would be healthier and we would not have to find the place nor time to process, save and delete all those bits and bytes of information we don't know what to do with in the first place.

In the meantime, let's have our answering machines exchange daytimers and set up lunch. Maybe they'll fall in love and you and I can watch them ride off into the sunset on a wave of technological advancement making them obsolete before they ever get to the question of how to turn eachother on.

We can sit and reminisce about the good 'ole days when love was an emotion and communication an art. But then again, maybe we can just eat eachother's owner manuals. At least we won't have to worry about whose turn it is to pick up the tab.

The question is: Will that be a WiFi or a broadband? Do you even care who your cell phone is talking to?

Have a great one!

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