Monday, August 23, 2010

Step Into the Rain....Leave the GPS at Home.

I honestly think that if Darwin saw us today, he would be in shock about how we have reversed natural selection. Through technology. Through science. We've actually made it possible for us all to be weaker and still survive. An example: I was helping a customer at Borders a few days ago. We did not have the book they were looking for, but after checking with the Snellville store, straight north of our location, I told them that they had it. Snellville is absolutely straight north of us, with no turns off of Turner Hill Road (124) until you reach the store. 20 minutes, tops. The customer then asked me for an address so that they could program it into their GPS system. It really made no sense to me why they would need their GPS to go in a straight line. But directions for people seem to be one of the things that we've lost as technology has improved. Many years ago, when sailors guided ships through unknown seas to islands that could have easily (and were, sometimes) missed, they took accurate and dependable navigations using a sextant, the sun, moon, and stars. Or pioneers, who used landmarks, rivers, mountains, etc... to find their way to distant posts. I often do the same thing, when my memorizing of maps (you know, the paper ones, or at the very least, a good look at Google Maps) fails me. I always seem to know the direction to wherever it is I need to go. Atlanta makes it easy that way. As long as you head in any direction, you will eventually hit an interstate, which will take you home...etc... It's easy. But people are scared of the unknown. Scared of what will take them away from someone holding their hands. They should switch off their GPS systems and rely on their brains. Much like Luke Skywalker did in Star Wars. And besides, it will keep your car from being broken into and your GPS stolen.

It's the paradox of technology that interests me, the pull toward timidity, a lack of vision, a lack of drive, even as the advances we have so creatively constructed pull us forward. We are fastly becoming slaves to the mechanical men around us. Take for instance the calculator, and subsequent inventions of doing math electronically. Now, at retail stores, it is quite impossible for cashiers to actually do the math of giving out change in their heads. In some instances, the registers even hand out the change for them. If one were to take the monitors offline and force everyone to give back change by simply adding back to the customer, I doubt that anyone could do it. The reliance on technology has become too great. I once was in a McDonalds in Virginia. It was a band trip to Washington DC, and so the great busses filled with hungry instrumentalists filed into the golden arches after having watched way too many movies on the DVD screens above the heads of each traveler (of which I wanted to take baseball bats to the screens, but that's another rant). We went in and saw that they had just installed monitors on each of the registers, so that the people getting the orders could see what each person ordered. So, instead of using their brains and memorizing the order, getting the fries, drink, and burger all at once, they got the fries....then looked at the monitor... then got the drink....then looked at the monitor...then got the burger.... well... you get the idea. Each order took at least 10 minutes to do. It was the most ill-run restaurant I'd ever been in, and I'm convinced it was due to the new monitors that
made it unnecessary for the workers to actually use their brains.

How many people could even estimate percentage off. Who could figure out the problems with a computer or Air Conditioning, figure out how to troubleshoot it? I'm sure that the service operators at Dell or HP must get the most asinine calls, since the troubleshooting manuals talk about the most simple of problems: Is your Computer not coming on at all? Solution: Have you plugged in the power cord? I loved the AC unit manual, which suggested that if the Air Conditioner wasn't running, that we might not have plugged it in, or turned it on. There is so sense anymore when it comes to dealing with technology or figuring out even the most mundane things about life in one's head. We need some sort of machine to do it for us. I don't doubt the novels of Isaac Asimov, when the world of robots would someday become as smart as us, and, instead of being the servants, would actually be the rulers. It makes the Terminator world seem not so far off, although I seriously doubt if any of us are intelligent enough to create such mechanical marvels.

One of my associates, Jeremy, told me about a time when he went to the grocery store, and when he arrived, it was raining fairly hard. He was greeted with the sight of quite a few customers standing outside the store, groceries already bagged, waiting for the rain to end. They just didn't want to get wet. They seemed frightened, as if they were cats. Jeremy got out of the car and went into the store, resulting in quite a few incredulous stares. With all of life that's going on around them, and they don't want to get wet? We are in Oz, and the people around us are combinations of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion. Most of all, they are too dumb to step out into the rain.

So what am I saying? Well, for one, I've seen too many people paralyzed at the thought of using a piece of technology. I know people who look at an ATM machine and just stare blankly at it, or cringe at using a digital camera. On the flip side, there are the people who are so dependent on their technology that they are enslaved to it. It's time we stopped cowering in fear from the Frankensteins we have created and start being their masters. We have made these wonders of science in order to progress further from them, like steps up some imaginary flight of stairs. We should also master the natural things in this world, and not be afraid of a little rainstorm. Should we get a little wet, well, that's what umbrellas are for, or if nothing else, we should get wet in order to see the sun shine again, or the rainbow filtering through the clouds. We must find our place in this world, in harmony with the natural things as well as the technological. God gave us all this that we might prosper and develop... let us make use of it.

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