February 1, 2010

We don’t have to be smart any more. The only skills people in the next generation will need is the ability to repair machines and program computers. Everything I learned in school is now the function of a machine. Take math, for example. Calculators replaced the “times-tables” we had to memorize. They will do everything from square roots to calculus. Reading is barely needed since one can learn almost anything by watching a demo on the web and imitating it. If one must read, certain computer programs will read aloud to you while you do something else. Or you can rent the movie and pretend to have read the book.

Handwriting is not a subject any more. Too bad I attended elementary school back in the dark ages when we still had to learn to print with the paper that had dotted lines down the middle. Cursive writing was the bane of my existence, and always the worst grade on my report card (except for “deportment” – yeah – look it up, kids!). If I’d done 4th grade today (which is when we learned cursive script) I’d have had straight “As”. Youth today learn to use a keyboard before they ever get to first grade. I didn’t get typing until high school. We had to learn to hold a pencil before they trusted us with a keyboard. Another subject that didn’t make the cut is home economics. Young women don’t have time to cook and sew anyway. But that’s another day’s discussion…

Not only do we not need academia, we also don’t need map-reading skills. All we need is a working GPS to get us wherever we’d like to be. Know how to push buttons, and you’re literally “home free.” I’m so relieved with the advent of affordable global positioning. This development means that somebody out there knows where I am at all times, even if I don’t. I can always be found. You can’t imagine how comforting that is for someone who can get lost going to Atlantic Station (read the Archives for the full story).

My cell phone can now tell me almost everything I need to know. It connects me to the internet, takes photographs, sends messages (and photographs), serves as a tape-recorder and player,becomes a flashlight or siren and replaces my radio and other musical devices. It offers me applications that allow me to do anything from reading novels to strumming a tune on a virtual guitar. I will never know the potential of the device. What I needed, after all, was a phone.

Even basic life-skills are now automated. The first time I went into a public restroom where the toilet self-flushed, the water and soap self-dispensed and the hand dryer nearly blew my skin off without my even touching it, I was incredulous. We already had self-winding watches, robotic vacuum cleaners and motion-sensing lights. I’m still waiting on the self-making bed and the dust-eating furniture.

The question in my mind is motivation. We need all these time saving devices for… what? So we can have more leisure and work will be easier. So now everyone needs a gym membership to work off our leisure. We need personal therapists to tell us to slow down and lay aside the drivenness we live under. I sense a tension we’ve self-induced. Do we control our mechanized lives or do they control us?

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2 Responses to “”

  1. paul merrill Says:

    I deliberately try to fit in “old ways” of doing things – like riding my bicycle to the post office instead of driving. That way I get a non-artificial form of exercise combined with something I had to do anyway.

  2. David Edmonson Says:

    I was just thinking the same thing recently. Yesterday I kept looking out my window at the beautiful sunshine wishing I could get away from the computer to go for a walk. It never happened. Then the computer kept me up too late, so that it was hard to get up this morning and rush back to the computer. It is silly!

    I did, however, enjoy a nice 20 minute nap in the sun as I sat in a restaurant parking lot waiting on them to open today. It was then that I noticed that there is peace and solace in down time.


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