The Duncan Banner

August 5, 2012

Is being constantly ‘wired’ all that smart’?

Life as I Know it

Jeff Kaley
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — A few days ago, 21st Century Technoman was chatting with a friend, when the cell phone started singing and Technoman excused himself to see who was calling.

As Technoman checked the voice mail, the fellow he’d been talking to got a wide grin and began to chuckle. When Technoman put the cell phone away, his friend blurted, “Do you mean you don’t have a ‘smart’ phone yet? What’s that you’ve got, a hand-cranked cell phone?!”


Sensing his techno status was the source of mirth, Technoman got a bit indignant and replied, “No, I don’t have a #%$& ‘smart’ phone, and I don’t want one. This ‘dumb’ phone does everything I need. And unlike the rest of you lemmings, Technoman isn’t going to shell out a few hundred dollars every time the next ‘you-gotta-have-it’ cell phone goes on the market — which is about every 10 #&$%@ing days!”

Having nipped that inane discussion in the bud, Technoman and friend went back to their original topic, which was trying to determine why the Cardinals can’t gain momentum in the National League Central pennant race.

Later, Technoman was rethinking the “smart” vs. “stupid” thing, and after some self-reflection, Technoman remained resolute in his position — “smart” phones are just another techno toy he doesn’t need.

Technoman has nothing against the danged things, and more power to folks who can’t function in the world without a “smart” phone’s remarkable techno capabilities. It’s just that Technoman refuses to let technology force him into a lifestyle that demands immediate possession of every new techno widget that comes down the pike.

What increasingly twerks Technoman about the endless profusion of these gadgets is the public’s casual acceptance that “functionality” and “connectivity” have inherently positive attributes; that the more time you devote to being hooked-up in cyberspace somehow makes you a better person.

Technoman feels being “wired” 24/7 doesn’t really elevate the species. And imagine Technoman’s delight upon discovering there’s someone who agrees.

A day after the “smart” vs. “stupid” conversation, Technoman read an essay written by Evgeny Morozov, a fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. Morozov’s piece stuck a pin in the hot air balloon of modern communications technology advocates.

In the piece titled “The Internet’s False Promises,” Morozov agreed the evolution of communications technology isn’t necessarily bad. But he does counter the overblown notion the Internet is going to some day eliminate war, erase borders, promote global unity and end tyranny.

“We haven’t seen an Internet-powered rise in global peace, love and liberty,” Morozov wrote. “And we’re not likely to ... a networked world is not inherently a more just world.”

When it comes to the relentless progress in transformative communication technologies, you’d think we would have wised up. But Morozov asserted that’s not the case.

Nothing in the human experience has prompted the change from adoration to contempt more thoroughly than TV. Some folks believe “pulling the plug” on television has made them smarter and happier, so why do we believe in the mystical power of the Internet to result in a world of blissful coexistence? It can’t.

Here’s Morozov’s take on the Internet: “They said it would usher in a new era of freedom, political activism and perpetual peace. They were wrong.”

They were wrong, he suggested, because technology changes the way we behave, makes many tasks much easier, gives us access to people and ideas, “but it doesn’t make us better human beings.”

That’s been Technoman’s point all along. The Internet and all these cyber networking outlets have a positive purpose — they can entertain, they can present knowledge, they can promote commerce, they give us an outlet to keep up with friends and family, etc. But the Internet and cyber networking can also promote and intensify all of humanity’s negative traits — intellectual sloth, jealousy, lying, prejudice, intolerance, hate, greed, perversions of all sorts.

Which is why Technoman will continue to struggle along with his “dumb” phone and stay resolute in the crazy notion humans should control technology growth — not the other way around.

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