by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.
At this point in time we have between the two of us, at home and at the office (and not counting what devices I imagine are secreted within the framework of our automobile) no fewer than nine computers. Nine. That’s a lot! Come to think of it I’ve never before owned nine of anything at one time, not nine lawnmowers or nine typewriters or even nine toothbrushes. I suppose one can excuse the proliferation by observing that each of the computers is different and fulfills a specialized task – desktops, laptops, tablets and Smart Phone. The frightful thing is that I don’t think I could live without any one of them! Sounds bewildering I know but it’s true.
The desktop computers most easily lend themselves to word processing, something that as a lawyer and a writer is imperative to me. Even if one’s avocation or hobby doesn’t require it, there are nonetheless so many occasions on which one must compose a letter or email or populate a form that to survive without a desktop computer would in my opinion be equivalent to a self-inflicted wound if not merely a needless disadvantage. As for the laptops, anybody who has traveled knows the value of a portable computer (at least one which doesn’t require you to type with your thumbs). The tablets are the next level of economy and mobility, adding in particular the desirable features of diminutive size and weight. The Smart Phone attempts to gather all the features of the others in one place, a goal which is admittedly achieved at the expense of accommodation generally (though skillfully so with the introduction of voice recognition).
Believe it or not there are still among us those who could care less about computers, not as one might suppose just the elderly (who very often surprise me by being astonishingly au courant) but also younger people for whom either words or instant communication are largely irrelevant or repugnant. I confess I have a private admiration for those who snap their fingers at stylish technology, but as with any other of my personal obsessions I am not about to abandon my own based upon the savvy and practicality of others. Technology is just too addictive for me to relinquish it.
Consider Mr. Wikipedia’s definition of technology:
Technology (from Greek techne, “art, skill, cunning of hand”; and logia, “word or utterance”) is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a pre-existing solution to a problem, achieve a goal, handle an applied input/output relation or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, including machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures. Technologies significantly affect humans’ ability to control and adapt to their natural environment.
Examples of technology are fire (to control food), the wheel (to control transportation) and the printing press, telephone and internet (to control communication). What however are the specific goals which one purports to achieve through modern technology? Wherein lies the proven sales pitch for these very intriguing devices? Is it a hard sell or a no-brainer? Are computers simply modern toys for children? My 87-year old mother for example insists that she can still post a letter, go to the bank and read her mail after it is pushed through the door slot. I have heard others say they don’t need a GPS because they know where they’re going. Have computers produced fictitious needs at a price?
There was a time when I only carried my Smart Phone with me when traveling in my automobile. Now I carry it everywhere. For example recently I received a call on my cellular phone from a merchant who asked to have a copy of my driver’s licence. I simply emailed him a copy of my licence which I just happened to have on my Smart Phone! Done! I also have standard document templates on my Smart Phone. These I can likewise share instantly with prospective clients. Not to mention advising my parents the balance or performance of their investment accounts or sharing the latest photographs of their grandchildren.
I won’t pretend that I have created the “virtual” office as yet but I have to say that the remote ability to answer email is a huge advantage over what prevailed 35 years ago, a time when, if I were out of the office I was out of touch.
Creating and tweaking a budget is the work of a moment! Editing photographs and sending them along to family and friends is accomplished in a heartbeat! Getting the weather or directions, reading a book or listening to music (all free by the way because I prefer the material outside copyright), checking your bank balance or paying a bill, even sending a professionally formatted birthday card by either email or real mail – all as easily done as said! While I doubt that it would capture the imagination of most people, the investigation of recondite legislation is also within immediate grasp. One can even go so far as to enquire “How do I do this or that?” and you can be certain to be directed to an apt description whether involving a complicated legal issue or determining how to secure squeaky floorboards. If you need to know whether a particular bottle of wine is in stock and at what outlet and how many are available, no problem! Ordering Chinese take-out from the seat of your car or checking the delivery status of a courier package is a snap. Being notified of deposits to and withdrawals from your bank account is standard procedure including an on-line view of a cashed cheque. Using such convenient forums as Kijiji or eBay to buy and sell goods, and to pay for them securely, is second nature. The list of objectives one can achieve through modern technology grows by the minute. If one but takes a moment to examine the uses to which technology is put from morning to night in one’s everyday affairs the docket is staggering.
I confess I have considerably less empathy with the use of technology for games and social media. Technology is for me still a tool and I am afraid I ascribe a utilitarian character to that assessment. In spite of any taradiddle one might engage to adjust the use of technology for on-line games I still consider it a perversion. From what I can see games and social media seldom transcend any but the basest level of intellectual involvement and more often than not qualify only as blithering or at best distraction. The hula-hoop was perhaps entertaining and even of some athletic value but it will never measure up to purposeful.
It is guaranteed that technology will continue to advance by strides. The evolution of synthetic knowledge is what I see as the next big thing on the horizon. I view this development as perfectly acceptable and no more an infringement upon our abilities than it is to steer a modern car. Being in control of the devices which improve our lives does not necessarily diminish our personal worth. Using technology to facilitate the drudge of existence is no more offensive than using a computer to write a book – the human talent still prevails (though pointedly heightened by the ready availability of thesaurus, dictionary, “Grammatik”, spell-check and research). I am quite content to allow Columbus the excitement of his discoveries while I happily await the blossoming forth of technology!