Technology an amazing servant, complex master

Many, and I’m one of those, yearn for the days when ‘things’ were simpler, less complicated, as they were in the days before technology took us by the scruff of the neck and dragged us into its inexorable, inescapable vortex. Arthur C Clark, that doyen of ‘futurism’ wrote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” So maybe we live in an age of magic, rather than technology.
Now, here we all are, living in societies with technological concepts and functions, that were the stuff of dreams, only a few years ago.
For me, the most intrusive element of this technology is the mobile phone. Really, as common as it is, it is an almost magical, wonderful thing, and how it actually works is still a mystery. Oh yes, I’ve had more ‘techie’ types trying to explain to me how a call to me, gets to me, ‘pinging’ from tower to tower, then finally to the phone and back again, with barely, often imperceptible, delays. Gosh, I still recall making long-distance landline calls and ‘tripping over’ the person I’m calling, as I was always unsure if what I had said had been heard.
The word processor is something, on the other hand, that I can totally relate to, support, and be enthusiastic about, because I can recall the days of writing articles, assignments and letters either by hand, or on a typewriter. How many of you can recall placing two sheets of carbon paper between three sheets of paper for ‘in triplicate’ assignments, and throwing pages and part-pages into the rubbish bins, ad infinitum, because of mistakes or changes you made. A word processor was something of a fantasy and dreams.
I do recall the earliest credit cards, Diners club, and American Express, because they were advertised in the Reader’s Digest, and such magazines, but never thought they would become an inescapable, indispensable, part of our daily lives if we include our debit cards. However, I do feel we had much more control of our spending and finances in ‘those’ days, as it seems impulse and Internet buying are rampant.
Transport has evolved significantly, with air travel becoming more and more diverse, as airlines flourish on the back of bigger, faster, more luxurious jets. Who would have believed it? Beds on planes.
However, the greatest technological revolution is taking place in the automotive environment, with electric cars taking an increasing share of road use. Hybrid cars have been with us for a few years now, but it is the new breed of full electric cars that are so amazing. Of course, they do need charging, and regular charging points could be the ‘sticking point’ in their complete embrace by the driving public, but learning this week how even using the brakes on the latest electric cars charges the battery, was astonishing, and an example of how things are moving onwards and upwards.
“Technology,” said Freeman Dyson, “is a gift, from God, and after the gift of life is possibly the greatest of His gifts. It is the mother of civilizations, of arts, and of sciences.” So, we must appreciate, and embrace this, these, gifts from God, and of course, we will, as they all contribute to the continuation of an ‘easier’ life for us.
However, I would utter a word of caution, as we can’t really ‘pick-and-choose,’ what we embrace, or not. Our societal development is based on reliance, and the assumption of responsibilities and practices that are a part of the new world, are rarely optional. You, or we, cannot take these technologies, use them, and then fail to communicate, for example, because you don’t want to. It’s not that simple. Life is not that simple, and picking the ‘eyes out of progress, is not the way forward’.

Ray Petersen
petersen_ray@hotmail.com