Thursday, February 25, 2016

Get Smart

Here's what the lady on the radio said: "You know, back in the days before smart phones, they probably could have found another way to figure this out." In this story, "they" would be the investigators looking for clues in the San Bernardino shooting last December that left fourteen people dead. The part of this suggestion that rang n my head was "back in the days before smart phones." There was a time when we asked strangers for directions. There was a time when, if we wanted to know who wrote that song, we would have to wait until we got home and looked through our record collection. Or asked a stranger. There was a time when, if we didn't know what time it was, I would have to guess. Or know that it was time to ask a stranger.
It's not just police work that has changed in the digital age. This is what I am saying. What you are reading right now would probably be scribbled in a journal somewhere, never to see the light of day. Unless some intrepid detective got it into their head to pry up the floorboards in my house after those ice cream trucks went missing in my neighborhood. Nowadays, "they" would probably use satellites and thermal imaging captured by drones and fed back through a wireless network to cameras attached to lamp posts and ATMs without ever leaving their desk. A very high tech desk that can be converted into a yoga mat with just a flip of a switch.
Technology makes us lazy, and not just in that standing-on-a-hoverboard-slurping-on-a-slushee-kind-of-way. We don't have to think as much as we used to. I have surrendered to the pervasive cloud of information that makes my once impressive knowledge of pop culture something of a relic. Not when I can dial up Wikipedia or ask Google to check out the world for me.
I do love a good piece of technology. The Shazam app that allows us to hold our hyper-intelligent phones to the wafting sounds around to tell us what album that David Gates tune came from, it's a beautiful thing, but it's not like coming up with "Lost Without Your Love" all on your own. Arbeit macht frei, as they used to say in the old country. Or "if you don't use it, you lose it." My wife and I recently lamented about our reliance on GPS and the way we have surrendered our shortcuts to the navigating device on our dashboard. Is it really the shortest route? Take the next left and try not to think about it.

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