Jewish World Review Jan 21, 2014/ 20 Shevat, 5774
Why, for every step forward on technology innovation, does human nature take a step or two backwards?
By Tom Purcell
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The Huffington Post is onto something.
In a recent report, the website listed seven things that the iPhone, first released to the public only seven years ago, has made obsolete — though there are surely plenty more than seven.
Up first, says the website: roadmaps. Thanks to Google Maps, which anyone can use on his or her cellphone, nobody uses paper maps anymore.
I can't begin to imagine how much stress this is saving vacationing families.
Pre-Google-Maps horror stories were legend when I was a kid in the '70s: Neighbors who thought they were heading east to the beach unwittingly headed west and had no idea of their error until they hit Indianapolis.
I remember being lost for hours in our station wagon, several maps sprawled across the dashboard and front seat, my father grumbling to my mother, “I knew we should have hung a Louie at Breezewood!”
Yeah, good riddance to paper maps.
That brings us to another item made obsolete by iPhone innovation: the alarm clock. Every cell phone has an alarm app now. I use mine all the time — particularly on the road.
Though the website didn't mention this one, the wristwatch has also been made obsolete. Since I always have my cell phone nearby, clearly displaying the time and date, I stopped wearing watches years ago.
In fact, the only time I missed having a watch was last week. I was out of the country on business and deactivated my cellphone for the week. Lacking a clock of any kind, I was perpetually late, or way too early, for the bus I took from my hotel to my client's office.
Cellphone technology has also made obsolete most cameras and music devices, such as the iPod, which made CDs obsolete just a few years ago. Many phones can store thousands of songs and come with high-resolution cameras — which, in my opinion, are making modesty, compassion and good judgment obsolete.
Hey, just because your cellphone has a camera doesn't mean you have to use it — you don't have to take “selfies” while drinking adult beverages without your shirt on. And you know who you are, seemingly-90-year-old Geraldo Rivera.
The selfie is enabling human nature to display its ugliness at never-before-imagined depths— such as the lady who included in her selfie a distraught suicide victim about to plunge from a bridge, or the coy student who selfied himself as his pregnant teacher was having contractions in the background.
Our attention spans have also been made obsolete by iPhone innovation, says the website, and isn't that the truth. Why, that reminds me of, um — oh, never mind, I can't remember what I was going to say.
One thing I can remember is that it's impossible to have a serious, face-to-face conversation with anyone under age 30 without him or her obsessively pressing both thumbs against a small keypad while making intermittent eye contact with you. That is because, says the website, another victim of the iPhone is table manners.
How much longer will it be before entire extended families gather for Thanksgiving dinner — three or four generations sitting side by side — and nobody is talking, but each is texting someone at somebody else's Thanksgiving table in some faraway city or state?
How did we so quickly descend from the invention of the typewriter keyboard, a grand 19th-century advance that efficiently transfers thoughts to paper using multiple fingers, to bastardizing the English language using only our thumbs?
That's the odd thing about human invention. For every step we take forward, we seem to take a few backward at the same time.
As much of a visionary as Apple founder Steve Jobs was, I wonder if he doubted his own inventions at times — which he surely might have, had he still been alive when Geraldo Rivera tweeted his selfie.
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© 2013, Tom Purcell