Technology may push us into increased socialism…

June 12, 2017

If you still have work years ahead of you something serious to ponder is: what happens when the robots take over? And they will.

It won’t be Robert the Robot, something you would have to be at least my age to recall from the 1950s, and it will not be R2-D2 from Star Wars, although those characters might be included, but it will be (already is in many instances) smart phone technology, self-driving vehicles, drones, computers figuring your every need and delivering it to you almost before you think of it. It will be artificial intelligence replacing those once thought-to-be-safe thinking/analytical jobs.

One problem will be that only engineers and various computer wizards will have good employment — they will still be needed. And some capitalists of the upper echelons will hire these people or make investments in companies that do.

But most of the rest of us, regardless of education level or special training, will find there is not much out there.

Of course the labor market will be so flooded that the upper classes will be able to afford to hire more people for menial work or at least will pay menial wages for all types of work.

We indeed may be forced into some kind of socialist state where the government takes on an even bigger role in supporting the populace. The upper classes, made up of those engineers and capitalists, will be willing to support it in order to keep what might otherwise turn into a hungry mob at bay.

I was having my late afternoon meal at a taqueria and at one table young men were eating and joking around with each other the old-fashioned way, at another some not-quite-as-young men were staring at their smart phones. Almost kind of counterintuitive, that is it would seem the younger they are the more they might be addicted to the phones.

But, whatever, I thought the ones without the phones seemed to be enjoying life. Those staring at the phones had dour expressions.

Back to Robert the Robot. When I was a little boy my best friend at the time had his own Robert the Robot toy. It spoke. What made it or allowed it to speak we both wondered. Finally he took a hammer and smashed it open.

There was a tiny vinyl record inside.

The robots of today just have an updated version of that.

But they have no soul.

Well, not yet, as far as I know.

We are fast becoming a society with no soul, addicted to our smart phones, afraid perhaps we will miss out on something.

What we may be missing out on is life, humanity.

I am always with mixed emotions when it comes to technology. All those decades ago now when I was a working newspaper journalist I experienced the ups and downs of it. Going from pounding on a manual typewriter to word processing to laptops, things got easier and more fun and far more efficient. What we did not grasp at the time perhaps is that this technology spelled the demise of newspapers as we knew them. Journalism is not dead but the newspaper journalism I knew is all but dead. And then I moved into the trucking world. I used to have to stand in line to use a pay phone. I used to have to hunt up a pay phone to make check calls with dispatch and of course to get dispatches. There used to be this phone booth out in the middle of nowhere on U.S. 97 that I would use. And what did we do when we broke down out in the middle of nowhere? I was in that transition stage from the old-time trucking world to the more modern. The old guys, mostly retired now, would tell you: “We helped each other”. If a trucker saw you in trouble he (usually it was a he back then) would stop and assist you. But today, no one has time. And with all the meanness out there it might not be safe. There are exceptions of course, and I have been both the beneficiary and benefactor a time or two.

Anyway all of our communication is via cell phones. And dispatch no longer has a big map with pins in it. It’s all in the computer. But when the computers crash, they are lost until they come back up again. Warehouses come to a standstill when computers crash. In the old days they just looked in their inventory lists and knew where things were. But overall of course things are far more efficient and rapid.

But technology moves on at warp speed. Driverless or autonomous trucks will likely eliminate all or a majority of driver jobs over the coming decade or so if not sooner.

Where is the line between making life easier and better with technology and throwing us all out onto the street?

Leisure is great I am sure. But humans I think need productive activity. It’s in our DNA.


Your arms hangin’ limp at your sides
Your legs got nothin’ to do
Some machine’s doin’ that for you

(from the song “In the Year 2525” written and composed by Rick Evans)

 


The shift to self-driving vehicles may lead to something we can’t quite envision now…

April 17, 2017

So where is this demand for self-driving cars?

I keep reading that automakers are racing to get them on the market but I have also read there is little apparent demand for them at this time.

On the other hand, after a couple of decades of driving a big truck and many more driving my own car I’m not wild about driving.

I am not surprised that some new way of getting around is on the horizon. In fact I am surprised that for all the advances in technology in general and all the advances within the automotive industry we are still driving cars powered by internal combustion engines that despite all our new gadgets don’t seem to be all that far away from those driven say in the 1930s or ’40s or even before.

We are not flying around in miniature space crafts like in the old George Jetson cartoons of the ’60s. And here we are in 2017 getting around about the same as we did in 1960.

Yeah, I imagine it is about time for a major change, something akin to the horse and buggy to the automobile, so actually the self-driving car somehow does not seem all that revolutionary.

But something I cannot wrap my head around is how we are going to get along in the transition, with a combination of self-driving cars and manually-driven ones. There’s going to be a lot of confusion and a lot of lawsuits and maybe a lot of crashes.

The liability in such cases is uncertain at this time. We don’t have a history yet so what is the law supposed to draw on?

Of course as a truck driver I should be concerned about self-driving vehicles taking my job. Well I am already past retirement age, but still working. I’m not too concerned. I know it’s coming, there are already some test cases.

But whether it’s on the commercial end or the consumer end I’m thinking the ultimate transition will be something we cannot quite envision yet and will just evolve.

In the meantime with various “driver assist” features on cars and in the offing we are moving into a full takeover by technology I suppose.

I have read that younger people are not as tied to the automobile-driving way of life as people have been since say the 1920s when Henry Ford made it possible for darn near anyone to buy a Model T.

Today the cost of cars is so prohibitive that the supposed freedom they offer (basically freedom of movement) is no longer so attractive or even possible for many.

On the other hand, if you live away from the major metropolitan areas and mass transit, a private vehicle is almost a necessity.

Well I don’t know where all of this is going to wind up but it would be nice to retain our freedom of movement but in a much more economical and environmentally sound way. And I think that is likely within the offing, it is just hard to grasp from our vantage point.


If we’re so lonely why do we seek virtual reality?

March 26, 2014

And I thought I was the only one who was lonely, a widowed truck driver out on the open road, but it seems much of society is even with people all around them. I mean people are constantly texting each other, sometimes when the person is in the other room — my own daughter and her daughter have done this, but they are not alone (no play on words intended), and I’ve heard others do this too. And we all have seen people sitting with each other at a dinner table having their own private texting sessions with people elsewhere.

Now Facebook has bought out an outfit that makes some kind of head gear (it looks super clumsy and dorky in the photo I saw) that allows people to have some kind of virtual reality get-togethers with folks elsewhere. The story I read did not give details, and I was in no mood to know too much about it anyway. I think I got the creeps some time ago when I read that the technology already exists to where you wear a certain type of glasses that will instantly tell you who you are talking with and their background (and can we or will be shortly be able to read their mind, that will be the end of the human race or at least any kind of meaningful relationships. I mean as much as we’d like to know what someone is thinking, it may sometimes be better if we do not).

I have a true love, hate relationship with technology. On the one hand I lament that it at first promised great things for my former occupation as a newspaper reporter and then all but did away with traditional paper newspapers. On the other hand I love having the electronic or web version of the New York Times at my finger tips wherever I go and with the latest updated stories (and of course all the other sites). I appreciate my Kindle with its e-reader and even its feature that allows me to watch movies. And as a truck driver I can’t imagine what I did before the cell phone, not only is it handy, but one could not even do the job without one these days, and it is extremely difficult to figure out how we did without them. I began my truck driving just before cell phones took over. I still recall making calls from the telephones that were at the driver booths in the restaurants at the truck stops. I don’t know what we did when we broke down. Since cell phones quickly took over my breakdowns have meant I make a cell call for help. I did have to flag down another trucker once when my cell did not get coverage in a particular area. Fortunately the other driver’s phone did — before he stopped many trucks just whizzed by (who has time?).

So yeah, it’s great to have the latest news and to have books and movies at my fingertips and to have help on the way when I am stranded on the road (and to be able to do this blog), and I’m all for breakthroughs in medicine so we can all live a longer and healthier life, but at some point I wonder, don’t we have enough?

And why are we so much after being all by ourselves in virtual reality? Has technology dehumanized us?

I think the answer is: not yet, but it will.

 

P.s.

Oh, and back to the trucking culture. When I began this phase of my life, we all used to eat at the truck stop restaurants and hang out, phones on the tables, and make calls to our dispatchers. And of course truckers swapped stories. You should see some of those restaurants these days. Many of them are deserted. Many have closed down. They have been replaced by fast food outlets. What with cell phones and other technology speeding up the dispatching of trucks and creating tighter delivery schedules — and at the dame time new “safety” rules make truckers cut corners in their time to get things done in a narrower window — no one has time. In addition, many truckers have their own refrigerators and microwaves in their trucks.

It’s a faster world. It’s a lonelier world.


I’ve seen the future and it does not look promising

December 4, 2013

Just read a few articles that basically say that delivery by drones is no joke and that it is not only Amazon looking at it but others, to include pizzas being delivered in England.

What we all know or should know by now is that probably a majority of the work we all do could be done by drones or robots or computers. Very few occupations are completely immune. I recall a few years ago a relative of mine suggesting that occupations where you use your creative and thinking skills were safe — not really. While computers don’t yet think like humans, they do have their own kind of intelligence and they already have replaced heretofore creative and cerebral work or at least there have been experiments in using them in some cases. It must have been 20 years ago or more that I read a story that said a computer was used to write a novel. I never read the novel or novels, but that’s scary. Then there was the story that a robot was used or tested as a kindergarten teacher. And what about lawyers? So much of what so many of them do is boiler plate stuff. That can be replaced by computers. Ever heard of Legal Zoom? And in law offices and all offices, word processing programs have replaced a large portion of the clerical staffs.

As I am always noting in this space, I am a truck driver (I’ve done other things too, such as journalism), and I can see the handwriting on the wall. The field of transportation is highly susceptible to being taken over by driverless vehicles and drones and pilotless airplanes. The technology is here and has been used already — Just waiting for the necessary laws (California already allows driverless cars — and how that works I have not a clue) and perhaps the necessary infrastructure.

And I don’t mean to be using poor taste, but that commuter train crash a few days ago in New York was apparently the result of human error, the engineer, it is being reported now, admits he basically fell asleep. So the argument that you are better off having a human at the controls in the interest of safety does not seem to hold. In fact, experts and politicians are calling for safety mechanisms to be installed on the trains that detect speed and can slow them down or stop them when necessary.

If you have children, you need to counsel them to do well in school. The old adage that, well if nothing else you can work in fast food is not going to hold. In fact you may not even be able to get a job at a regular restaurant. There is a move at some to do away with most or all of the wait and counter staff via automation. You’re going to need special skills and a deep understanding of automation to work anywhere in the not-to-distant future. Even that is not going to be a guarantee.

Now here is a thought, and please don’t misunderstand me, I am definitely for social programs, but if we did not have so many and people just had to work at something to make a living, then probably a lot of jobs would survive, because supply of labor would outstrip demand, and employers would find the need to automate not as great. I’m not sure about that, though. Once the ball starts rolling methods change and we are not likely to go back in time.

Automation taking away our livelihoods coupled with climate change and never-ending war in many parts of the world don’t paint a nice picture of our future. Somehow getting older does not seem so bad after all.

P.s.

At my first newspaper job the bane of our existence in getting out a daily newspaper was the uncooperative back shop — the composing room where people worked at typesetting and what was then called paste up. I was happy when most or all of that was replaced by computer technology (I had already changed newspapers, but the whole industry went that way). But now, technology has all but replaced the traditional newspaper. What goes around comes around.


And now drones threaten light delivery drivers, and technology all of us…

December 2, 2013

Sometimes you have to stop and ask yourself about technological advancements — is this really necessary?

I just read that Jeff Bezos of Amazon has announced that his company plans within the next five years (maybe not that soon) to deliver small parcels via airborne drones — beats trucks, he says.

(And some commenters are saying this is just a publicity gimmick by Amazon.)

Now keeping in mind I am a truck driver (but I am not really involved in his line of products), is this really necessary? And is this even a good idea? Do we really want to add more traffic in the air? We already have enough on the ground.

And this has to be a wakeup call for those who drive light delivery trucks (the King of Queens will be out of a job at this rate).

Are we really trying to eliminate every last job we can think of? I’m not really worried about truck driver jobs at the moment (especially as I move ever closer to retirement); no matter what, I doubt that we’ll see an end to truck driving in decades — things are always changing, though. Driverless vehicles are a technological reality (on the ground and in the air) now (although I still have not figured out how that is going to work out, well unless all vehicles become driverless — I mean how do you take road rage out on a driverless vehicle? sorry a really bad joke in poor taste, but I couldn’t pass it up — road rage is no laughing matter really).

But in at least one of my past posts I have asked: “When has technology gone too far?” One way to answer it might be when it takes your job. But of course that’s too narrow in thinking. I mean we haven’t needed buggy whip makers for a whole lot of time now — what? A century?

But how much better do we want to make life? What are we to do when we don’t have to do anything? People already do things — just about everything — via the virtual manner via computers. There comes a point when you ask just what is the purpose of reality? And I don’t know who pays for and will even understand all this technology decades from now when no one has to do anything — all the incentive to work and learn will be gone.

There must be a happy medium between the caveman and a futuristic hell I see on the horizon, maybe we’ve already reached it.

But wait, there is some indisputable good coming out of modern technology. I just read (okay skimmed) an article about a wealthy doctor who is creating a super data center that can plug in your specific DNA and come up with your own personal cancer treatment (cure). The link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/01/patrick-soon-shiong_n_4351344.html

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My latest video extra: http://youtu.be/v1o4W_oQJcI

 


Blockbuster closes; you used to have to rent the machine just to watch a video…

November 7, 2013

So Blockbuster Video is closing the last of its stores, made obsolete by the ever-changing technology in the way people watch movies.

And to think, a few years ago I was embarrassed to admit to a young kid at the Blockbuster counter that I wasn’t quite sure what the procedure was because it had been so long since I rented a video. I sheepishly told him, and I was not exaggerating (well maybe I was): “The last time I rented a video I had to rent the machine to play it too.”

Today you of course don’t have to go down to your local video store and rent one of those boxed-shaped cassettes and then worry about returning it on time, you can get it streamed live to your computer or other device, and if the time runs out on the rental, you just can’t watch it anymore. No late fee.

Currently I’m watching a lot of movies on my Kindle Fire tablet and sometimes on my laptop. I’m amazed how great the definition is on my Kindle.

But I really miss the big screen. I’d rather see a movie in a theater. I tend to go for foreign films or any film that has more art to it and a more complex story, as opposed the general shootemup or car chase or over-the-top special effects that the general public seems to be so enthralled with. And for those kind of movies I like, how they look on the big screen is part of the art.

I’m pretty sure that in the not-to-distant future you won’t even need a device (such as they are now). Somehow it will all be streamed to you to where you can watch in all play out right before yourself in some kind of three-dimensional holographic presentation.

Who knows? It might even be interactive. You might be able to step into the picture yourself.

Here’s looking at you kid… Oh excuse me, I was just doing my Humphrey Bogart so I could get into the act…


Entering the 21st Century finally with a new Kindle Fire…

March 3, 2013

I feel as though I have finally entered the 21st Century. I just bought a Kindle Fire e-reader/tablet.

Almost took it back, I got so frustrated. But a young sales gal — actually not the sales person who sold me the Kindle, but not important here — told me if you’ve never used the touch screen on a tablet there is a “learning curve”. I think that prompted me to try harder to show I can handle it.

Cut to the chase here: by now (it took a few days) I am satisfied with it and actually quite excited. I just started really. I have not even bought an e-book yet, but I borrowed one and started reading it. Now this book does not seem to have a lot of big, unfamiliar words, but I love the instant dictionary feature where you can just press on the word and get a definition.

Now I have books and newspapers and magazines and videos at my fingertips. I guess I have more too — I don’t really know all the features. I’m not the kind of buyer who shops around all that much on most things. I hate to shop. But when I get into the mood to get something or if I really have to have it I just go get it and don’t fool around with salespeople who cannot or will not answer my questions. Actually I’m an easy mark for a sales person who even acts like her or she knows the product and can sell it.

I’ve come a long way. I began my career (or so-called career) in newspapering in 1973. I pounded out my daily stories on an old manual Royal typewriter. I made a lot of pencil corrections and did a lot of cutting and pasting with the copy paper. And I had a dictionary handy and madly looked up words I was not sure about. And all of this had to be read by an editor and then went to a typesetter and then back to a proof reader and then was pasted onto a page, and had I begun but a few years earlier it would have had to have been set in metal type. I recall going to a newspaper office where my dad worked and seeing all that.

In 1978 I took a job with another newspaper and we had video display terminals hooked into giant computers that were in a separate room and manned by a technician.

And then I went backwards and took a job with a newspaper that was still using typewriters. What was I thinking?

And at the last newspaper I worked at before leaving that trade and becoming a long haul truck driver we had the old main fame computers but some of the young people were beginning to use PCs.

This tablet I have reminds me of what my beginning journalism teacher told us back in 1972 . He said that newspapers as we knew them at the time would become extinct and would probably be replaced by some kind of thin board like thing about the shape of a newspaper that would be electronic. And that is what we have now, except smaller and much more sophisticated than many of us might have imagined and it has not only made the conventional newspaper all but extinct but it has made vast changes all across the various media.

Many things about the new technology are great and some are not. And I miss the old way to some extent. But like a friend of mine told me, you have to embrace the new technology or you will be lost.

I’m trying.

P.s.

My primary interest in all of this is information over entertainment, although the latter is great too.

But with the e-reader and the access to the internet, I now have little excuse to not be practically instantly up to date on all matter of things — time permitting.

 

P.s. P.s.

I’ll try to keep you posted from time to time on my progress and may even pose questions when I get stuck. I notice that most of these things do not come with printed instructions and one must use trial and error and get info off the internet (there are some limited tutorials embedded in the device, but they seem to leave open a lot of questions). My sister says most of it is “intuitive” — if only it was for me. Well the more you use the stuff the more it does become intuitive it seems.

P.s. P.s. P.s.

If the power goes out we’re all in trouble. But the old methods required power somewhere too. I remember seeing the pressman push an electrical switch to start the printing press.


And what will we all do when due to technology we have nothing to do?

February 14, 2012

Some time ago I did a post on the fact that no job is safe from mechanization or, better put these days, from technological advancements.

It isn’t just mechanized ditch digger machines — my dad once told me they took the bread out of the mouths of thousands of Irishmen, and he was not Irish, just an old saying — but all kinds of office jobs. I mean you don’t see a typing pool anymore and you don’t even see nearly as many secretaries — everyone has their own computer keyboard at their desk and can do all those letters and memos themselves, even if they can’t spell correctly or punctuate (and computers don’t know if you used the correct word or what the syntax of your sentence was supposed to be, but I digress; I‘m getting off point).

I’m a truck driver and drivers often joke about how easy dispatchers have it (even though they know that is not necessarily so) and there is that joke that an empty trailer is as light as a load of dispatcher brains. But drivers know they need them, dispatchers that is, nonetheless.

A few years ago I read in a story about careers that the job of dispatcher was going the way of the buggy whip salesman, that automated phone systems and computers and so on would replace them. At the time, I was skeptical.

Now subsequently I did work for a time for a trucking company that did have a type of automated dispatch, but even there the whole system was still dependent upon the input of human dispatchers, very much so.

But I got an email from a trade journal, unsolicited, advertising some automated dispatch system, bragging that dispatchers were replaced by automation at 30 terminals at a major trucking company for a savings of more than a million dollars to that company.

As a truck driver that does not give me comfort. I can argue with a dispatcher (although not a good idea), but I can’t argue with a phone message. I can get help from a dispatcher (I have to admit, they can and do help at times), but the automated phone things just take you around on a continuous loop, as anyone who has ever badly needed to talk to someone at a commercial outfit knows.

The point here is not that it won’t work, the automation, the point is that no one is safe from being out of a job — like I said in the previous post, they’re experimenting with driverless trucks (one driver told me that is a train, but that is not what I meant, and even a train has an engineer, although that position could probably be more easily automated — and do you want a driverless train going through your town? While I am going off on a tangent here, I understand the Bay Area Rapid Transit trains are equipped to run themselves but due to safety concerns and politics they have operators).

And I ask once again, what will we all do when we really do have nothing to do? We can’t just all go out and play. I mean how do we distribute the tokens we call money?

ADD 1:

Just read a story in the LA Times online that the Pentagon wants FAA clearance to fly drones (pilotless aircraft) inside the United States. Seems it has more than 7,000 of them in the Middle East and with things winding down there somewhat it sees uses for them here — sounds quite George Orwellian to me! And I know I have heard there has been discussion about crewless aircraft to transport passengers. In our economic system the ultimate goal is to not have to pay people to do anything. At one time it was thought that machines and technology could do the heavy lifting and we as humans would reserve the efforts that require thinking for ourselves, but with artificial intelligence we have passed that threshold.


(We are doomed!) At what point has technology advanced too far? Answer: it already has…

September 7, 2011

UPDATE:

I fully believe now that we have doomed the human race with our technology.

I just read a story that says there is now a computer that (who?) can carry on a conversation with humans and even fool humans into thinking it (he or she?) is a real person.  The link to the story is: http://news.yahoo.com/cleverbot-computer-chats-human-183804542.html

My original post, dating back to April, done before I knew about this latest development, follows below:

————————

At what point has technology gone too far?

I don’t know the precise answer to that question, if there is one, but I think in most respects it has already.

When technology stops actually improving life and instead makes it more complicated or frenetic then it has gone too far. But it would be hard to point to when that began to be the case.

I don’t think the invention of the wheel was the point, and not even gun powder, necessarily. The splitting of the atom, yeah, maybe. We unleashed a terrible new weapon that actually has the potential to destroy mankind and the earth, even though there are arguably helpful side benefits, such as nuclear power — but then look what Japan is going through right now with its slow melt down of nuclear reactors and no one knowing quite what to do about it as deadly radiation spreads across that nation and even around the globe (although it is questioned as to how dangerous the radiation is the farther away it gets from the power plants that were hit by the recent tsunami). Poor Japan, the only nation to ever suffer a nuclear weapon attack and now this.

But back to: when did technology go too far?

Maybe in the late 18th Century and early 19th Century at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution when peasants moved to the cities for what they thought would be an improvement in their lives. They gave up the bucolic, pastoral life, and open air, and relative tranquility, albeit hard work, or maybe drudgery, for smoke-filled cities, long hours working at dangerous machines, with the only benefit being maybe a more secure income, as long as you could stay healthy breathing in the factory smoke and living in crowded tenements with poor sanitation. Maybe I have read too much literature, but it seems they would have been better off Far from the Madding Crowd.

And I know you cannot or should not believe everything you hear or every detail of what you hear, even from your own parents (we sometimes create fantasies out of nostalgia), but if my dad were alive today I might well ask him to tell me again about how it was when he was a little boy on the farm and when his folks would sometimes trade eggs or other produce at the store for things they needed and when at some points during the year the store would actually owe them money.

(Mom would not likely tell such a story. The old days were hard, and that was it, she would likely tell you.)

And here is a case of developing technology that I have some personal experience with:

When I began in the newspaper business in 1973, at newspapers big and small, we were all still pounding away at manual typewriters. I always had a hard time at those things. I practically thought I had died and gone to heaven the first time I ever used an electronic word processor (we called them video display terminals, or actually, VDTs). Suddenly the fatigue part of writing and rewriting things was all but removed and no more dealing with the clutter of copy paper and going over copy paper with a pencil to edit out all of my many typos and other goofs. It greatly speeded things up — and this was even before the internet.

But in the small-time outfits I worked at mostly it was not all good. You see, I did a lot of editing of special or weekly sections where beside my own copy I used news releases and other material that came in. But this stuff had to be re-keyed into the system. Back in the old days, before computers, typesetters would handle this (I’d just pencil edit stuff).

But once every reporter/editor has his or her own terminal where you could directly input stuff into the system, well guess who had to do the typing (re-keying)? Well nowadays there are electronic scanners and most stuff comes in via email or in some electronic fashion. But the more that can be done by one person, the more that person has to do — that holds true in most work.

But even with all of this, I thought the rapidity that the electronic world offered was a great boon to newspapers. We could be a lot faster with news — damn near keep right up with broadcasters (although comparing real news gathering and reporting to broadcasting is almost like comparing apples and oranges).

Funny or not so funny thing happened. Over the past decade technology has advanced so rapidly in the newspaper industry that it has upgraded itself nearly out of existence. Few over 55 ever read an actual paper newspaper — everyone is on the internet, maybe reading electronic versions of newspapers (not at all the same, really), or just as likely news aggregation sites (just a collection of others’ work), or quasi news sites (kind of point of view inspired – not to be trusted).

I miss newspapers, but I have a computer, and I am not home enough days to make it practical to subscribe to a newspaper, and when I do buy one I am usually disappointed at the dearth of new news or variety and substance of the material presented (all the resources have gone elsewhere since the demand and profit of newspapers has dwindled) and they have gotten a little too pricey per copy (pay more for a lot less).

What I really should have been writing about is cell phones. Over the past decade and a half or so I have seen them in my own life go from a novelty, to a handy thing to have, to a life necessity.

And cell phones, which began as mounted car phones but now are miniscule portable devices, do all kinds of things besides making phone calls. But all I need is something to make that phone call.

And remember when you called a business and could talk to a live person? Now we have automated phone answering systems which begin with: “please listen closely because our menu options have changed. If you want to speak in English press 1…” and then you are taken on a circular ride that often times does not drop you off where you need to be or you get someone’s voicemail. I prefer two-way conversations to voicemail.

Today people are walking around seemingly talking to themselves, but actually talking on their cell phones with the hands-free devices, annoying and confusing everyone around them, except that maybe many others are doing the same thing, and people don’t have time to talk to each other in person because they are on the cell phone checking for messages or on the computer updating their Facebook or Twitter or whatever, and professionals get up in the middle of the night to check their Blackberries to see if anyone wants them. Teenagers, it is said, don’t socialize in person as much as via electronic devices.

The world is so fast-paced with all this labor-saving technology that no one has time for anything, except maybe virtual fun over electronic devices (a slight exaggeration, perhaps).

Whole armies of clerical workers have had their livelihoods wiped out by technology. But we have now found out that the bosses cannot spell and can’t write at all (why are they the bosses?). Technology is even threatening the livelihoods of professionals.

But what prompted me to write anything about this is the piece I heard on radio in which a supposedly respected physicist said that the technology is already available by which a person will wear something like contact lenses and be able to be on the internet and also be able to get all the information on anyone they meet instantly and even an instant translation if they speak a foreign language.

I don’t know. I think that is just technology going further than it needs to. I think that is taking the humanity out of humans. Maybe I am glad one’s lifespan is limited.

I would stop here, but then:

And after I finished most of this ramble, I was sitting in a restroom stall and could not help but overhear (the voice was so loud) a guy in the next stall, obviously talking on his cell phone and then flushing the toilet at the same time — and he was also going on about something about emails, and people commenting on Facebook.

Talking on the phone in the restroom seems strange, but I do recall in pre-cell phone days my late wife worked at a trucking company office where the boss did not want his staff to miss any calls, so he had phones installed in the restroom stalls.

But back to this guy in the stall talking on the cell phone. He was talking about Facebook as if it were a common everyday thing people deal with, such as answering the phone. And I have to realize that this is true, even if it is a novelty and something exotic to me that I have never actually used (but I do blog).

I grew up taking a lot of technology for granted, being in basically the first generation to grow up on television (even if it was black and white). We of course had telephones, but usually only one per house and it was not portable and in some places we lived we actually had party lines where we could not call out or receive calls if others were on the line. The whole family still sat down to dinner, even if sometimes we did want to finish fast to watch our favorite TV program. The only times kids were picked up at school was for emergencies or other unusual events. We almost always lived near our schools, but a lot of my friends had to walk long distances (relatively) to and from school. Most kids (not all) lived with both their real mom and dad and usually dad worked and mom was the housekeeper (and if she did work out of the house, well that was a bonus, giving that family extra disposable income).

Today the norm is for both man and wife (where there are two parents at home) to work and have little to no time for their children and expect the school to be their baby sitter.

But someone from a time earlier would have thought we in my days of growing up lived a fast-paced life and had it easy with all of our conveniences.

But today, a lot of people seem to be moving at a break-neck pace but not really getting anywhere, but they have to keep moving to survive.

Some do not feel they have the time to socialize in person so they do it on Facebook or other social media site. While certainly you can reach a lot more people and a lot faster that way, I have to wonder why it is preferred over to real life encounters. In some ways the morals of society have been perverted by the devil of electronics.

In this consumer-driven economy and technologically-advanced world, people, I think, have an empty and maybe lonely feeling and they are reaching out for something. Maybe in the old days they went to church, to both socialize and be one with God to give some meaning and fill that emptiness. But all that seems quaint now and technology and the search for a perfect life lures us elsewhere.

We’ve come so far we don’t even want to let people die, yet we can hardly afford to keep them alive.

They say technology is the answer to our problems. How much technology do we really need? And when has it gone too far?

I don’t have the answer, except that internet on the contact lenses concerns me.

P.s.

At what point in a blog post too long? Well this one got that way fast, but I often just write things in a basically stream of consciousness manner.


Cell phone use and texting should be banned from public schools…

November 15, 2010

This cell phone/texting thing among teenagers, especially in school , has gotten way out of hand.

I’ll make this simple: There is no reason for students to have cell phones or at least no reason for them to use them while school is in session.

Emergencies can be handled in the old, but quite reliable and just as expedient way of calling the school office and notifying the student.

Having students taking calls or texting while they are supposed to be listening to their teachers or otherwise doing school work is too distracting and a waste of taxpayer dollars that go into financing the school system.

Cell phone etiquette (or lack of it) and addiction is a societal problem that runs through all age groups.

In my own work as a long haul truck driver I have come to depend upon the cell phone and probably use it when I do not need to or should not, maybe — I do have the hands-free blue tooth thing.

In fact I am writing this blog now because I am broke down on the side of the road and am waiting for help. My own cell phone would not get out, but a fellow trucker stopped and I used his — later, mine decided to get out. I think this computer is working — not sure. So yes, I am not immune to the cell phone need and addiction (I use my computer mobile through a cell service often).

I fully accept the technology, but there needs to be etiquette and common sense used.

I was hearing about the cell phones in the schools problem and rules the schools try to enforce on a talk radio show. This is not the first time I have heard about this, but it reminded me of the problem and irritated me no end.

I fear that due to the timidity possibly of some school officials and the lack of discipline and common sense among parents, who seem to think their little darlings should be able to do most anything and that the school is basically a baby sitting institution, this problem may be too far gone already.

I think the talk show host, who seemed to give into the idea that teens are going to use the phones and text no matter what, commented that it has got to the point in society that two people have dinner with each other and don’t even pay attention to one another — instead they are texting or checking their cell phones or Blackberries or whatever.

But as far as public schools are concerned, the cell phone distraction should not be tolerated.