Edgar Allan Poe, the original American Luddite, once described science as “a vulture, whose wings are dull realities.”
It had, he insisted, “dragged Diana from her car … driven the Hamadryad from the wood … torn the Elfin from his green grass,” and stolen from him “the summer dream beneath the tamarind tree.”
In other words, science had destroyed creativity and imagination, essentially taking all the fun out of life.
I can relate, although I would substitute “technology” for “science.” I’m a big fan of science. Modern technology, though — by which I don’t mean cars and flush toilets, but pervasive and invasive “smart” everything — has indeed taken much of the fun out of life.
Here’s a short list of things that have been lost to our ubiquitous devices:
Movie stores. For years, when our children were growing up, family night consisted of picking up a pizza and then dropping by the “movie store” to rent a couple of DVD’s — one for the kids and one for mom and dad after said kids conked out.
I suppose it’s more convenient just to download a movie on your smart TV. But it isn’t nearly as much fun as wandering up and down the aisles at Blockbuster, reading the backs of the boxes and making your weekly selection.
Bookstores. Hanging out in bookstores has long been a favorite pastime of mine, but it’s one that is nearing extinction — just like the bookstores themselves. We lost Borders several years ago, and Barnes and Noble would have followed suit this year if they hadn’t been bought out by a huge hedge fund.
Meanwhile, independent booksellers have become almost a thing of that past. We’re fortunate to have Liberty Books on the Lawrenceville Square, with its old-fashioned bookstore experience. But few such places still exist. (Full disclosure: Liberty Books sells my books, among others, as well they should.)
Privacy. As an introvert, I’ve always been inclined to keep to myself. That has become nearly impossible in the internet age, when every detail of our personal lives is available anyone who knows how to find it — which is to say, virtually everyone under 50.
I know — I don’t have to participate in social media. But these days, opting out makes you not just an introvert but a recluse. Besides, I write regularly for a number of publications, some national. There’s no way to do that and still “fly under the radar.”
Peace of mind. Between internet news (nearly always bad), controversial social media posts and instantaneous smartphone communication, it’s difficult these days to find a moment of peace. As a society, we used to be able to unplug and unwind. Now we seem incapable of doing that, and I’m no exception.
So with apologies to Mr. Poe, I guess it isn’t science that’s to blame so much as our ever-expanding technology — which seems to be making everything smarter except people.
Rob Jenkins is a local writer and college professor. He is the author of five books, including “Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility” — available at Liberty Books in downtown Lawrenceville and on Amazon — and “Think Better, Write Better,” coming in June. The views expressed here are his own. Email Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org.