Friday, April 27, 2012

Beware: technology


Technology is taking over. “It’s everywhere! It’s everywhere!” screams the black-and-white movie hero as he runs through the darkened town, trying to alert the sleeping residents that their end is near.

As someone who watches scary movies from the 50s and 60s, and can remember the time before cell phones and high-definition TV (and even COLOR TV), I wonder when technology is going to bite us all in the butt. When is our ever-increasing knowledge going to turn on us?

Now, I’m not one of the doomsday forecasters who sit around waiting for the apocalypse. I don’t subscribe to the “end of the world is just around the corner” philosophy. I’m generally happy with the way things are going in the world that affects me. But….

Okay, let’s just say this comes from what happened to me today. I was taking my son to school this morning. Just like every morning. We pulled onto a busy section of road going to the school, when I noticed the silver car next to us had a key hanging from the truck lock. Attached to that key was one of those remote gadgets with buttons to lock/unlock the car doors. I thought, That’s not good. It would be easy for someone to get into that car. So, being the Good Samaritan I like to think I am, I decided to get the driver’s attention at the next traffic light.

Didn’t happen. The driver was a young girl, maybe 17 or 18. She had her left foot pulled up in the seat with her, her left knee almost under her chin. She was yakking away on a cell phone held to her left ear, her left elbow resting on her knee. Sounds weird, I know, but she was managing that position quite well. She was very involved in her conversation, her right hand punching the air as if emphasizing whatever she was saying into the phone.

I didn’t get her attention, and she moved away from the traffic light, still oblivious to the key hanging from the trunk lock. At the next light, I noticed a couple of other drivers trying to get her attention. They fared no better. I wished the girl luck that she still had her car at the end of the day, and didn’t have it stolen because she couldn’t take the time from her cell phone to simply notice what was going on around her.

Then, on the way home, I came to a four-way stop. I pulled up in a safe and courteous manner, making sure I watched the other traffic so I could determine my turn to go through the stop. The car coming toward me also pulled to a safe and courteous stop, as did the car on my right. The car on my left, however, only slowed down, rolled out about ten feet into the intersection, and then stopped. It was a huge black SUV, very noticeable. I looked at the driver, wondering what his/her problem was, when I noticed he was staring at, and punching buttons on, his cell phone! He was so involved in texting he hadn’t noticed he’d stopped in the middle of the intersection, effectively blocking all the safe and courteous drivers from following the law and proceeding as they should.

The woman in the passenger seat of the SUV appeared to be “freaking out,” very animatedly shouting at the driver. He looked up with a “what’s your problem, woman?” expression, appeared very surprised at the situation, and started motioning for me to proceed through the intersection. I gave him my best “do you know you could have killed someone?” expression, and made a gesture (nothing bad) that assured him that I could not proceed until he got his vehicle out of the way.

He casually went on through the intersection, still punching buttons, his girlfriend/mother/sister holding up her hands to me and the other drivers as if to say, “So sorry for his stupidity.”

So, maybe that’s why I’m on my technology-is-going-to-kill-us-all-one-day kick this morning. I realize it’s not technology’s fault. Technology shows that we of the human species are advancing. We’re using at least a part of the brains we were given to make life easier and more efficient. But, in my opinion, it’s also showing that, as technology moves forward, our abilities to use our brains logically is moving backward. In using technology, we’re not keeping our safe and courteous ideals intact.

Somebody needs to create an app that will notify drivers when they’re being jerks. One that pops up a “WARNING – YOUR DEATH (OR SOMEONE ELSE’S) IS IMMINENT, PINHEAD! message. Hmm, an interesting concept: use technology to keep technology in check.

Wow.

Writing tip: write with the reader’s point-of-view in mind. When bringing in characters, realize that the reader does not know the character. Introduce the character with a little bit of background, but not the character’s entire life story. It’s very frustrating to have, say, George do something earth-shatteringly important, but have his good deed go partially unnoticed because the reader is too busy wondering who the heck George is.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

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