Long-time readers of this column, if there are any, may remember that from time to time I have moaned or even fussed about technology and how it impacts our lives.
Much of that, I confess, has been because I’m a dinosaur when it comes to communications technology. For me, “Facebook” means you read a lot, as in “she keeps her face in a book all the time.” By the same token, “tweet” or “twitter” is what birds do, especially the robins in March and April.
And I won’t even touch “TikTok,” which everyone knows is the sound clocks make, or a “tablet,” that thing the doctor tells you to take two of and call in the morning.
Now granted, lest you think I’m a complete caveman, I know I’ve benefited from some technology. For instance, the heart doctors who hauled me into the operating room a couple of years ago made good use for my benefit of the tools at their disposal and I’m forever grateful.
But still, I don’t understand it. From the benefit of a few dozen birthdays, I can remember when we were told that technology was the most wonderful thing since sliced bread and indoor plumbing, kind of like Chatham County folks years ago were told Jordan Lake would be an economic bonanza and we’d wonder how we ever got along without it. Technology would revolutionize our world — and has it ever. It would speed up things, always be accurate and, thus, infallible and we would find we could not and cannot live without it.
Some of that has come to pass but I’m not so sure we and our bodies are created to always be in fourth gear or overdrive. Think hypertension, high blood pressure, cardiac disease. And always accurate? You know the answer there. Ditto for infallible. Some programs that are designed to check spelling and grammar don’t.
But we have just about gotten to the point as a society that we cannot do without it. And to quote Robert Kennedy, who quoted George Bernard Shaw: “I dream things that never were and ask ‘Why not?’”
This question of the advance of technology, large and small, on our lives isn’t a new one. In England in the 19th century, there arose a movement among textile workers to protest increasing technology of that day. Known as Luddites, these folks destroyed textile machinery as a form of protest against manufacturers who used machines to get around standard labor practices. The Luddites feared that the time spent learning their craft and developing their skills would be replaced by machines, which, in fact, happened.
As a result, fewer workers were needed, unemployment skyrocketed and anger rose. Eventually, the military and regulations ended the protests but over time, the word has come to mean someone opposed to industrialization, the rise of computers and new technologies in general.
I’ve thought about the connection between history (which so many seem intent on destroying so we can’t learn or remember where we were or came from so we don’t repeat the negatives) and today, to me there’s a conclusion.
We can all be grateful for medical advances and such but the total dependence on technology seems a bit frightening. We sometimes can go so far down a road we can’t come back if we need or want to, and I’m pretty sure the old fairy tale about Pandora said she didn’t go back into her box. Somehow the rush for artificial intelligence pales in comparison to the need for human intelligence.
There’s a bit of that in the case of our recent elections. In them, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news for some is their candidates didn’t win. The good news is that the ads are off television and the 14 pieces of junk mail will no longer show up in your mail. But I still don’t understand how someone in Houston can push a button and a cart on Mars will back up or turn right, but here in our land, it takes a month of Sundays to tabulate votes, even with all the computers and technologies. Apparently, “glitch” now has a special and unique meaning all its own.
Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and retired long-time managing editor of the Chatham News/Chatham Record, having written a weekly column for more than 30 years. During most of his time with the newspapers, he was also a bi-vocational pastor and today serves Bear Creek Baptist Church for the second time as pastor.