“This is perhaps the most beautiful time in human history; it is really pregnant with all kinds of creative possibilities made possible by science and technology which now constitute the slave of man – if man is not enslaved by it.” ~Jonas Salk
Last week while navigating the endless freeways connecting Southern California, I was overcome with wonder and gratitude for the advent of GPS technology. It is strange and a little disquieting to have no idea where you are or where you are going, yet fully confidently following the voice directions of a woman in a box that sits on my dash. The idea that this box knows where I am, even when I don’t, and can locate the nearest Whole Foods with precision is at once remarkable and slightly Big Brotherly in a way that I don’t want to consider.
Technology cookies and tracers of all kinds record us for marketers in ways that most of us don’t consider. It is only when you start to consider the records of your identity stored on nameless servers somewhere that can create the techno phobia that I sometimes witness in my customer base. I try not to lead my life by phobia in general and I am so intent on populating web-based technology with stories and knowledge of love that I have, on a certain techno level, surrendered my identity to that cause. It’s so different from those I watch try to remove any trace of their identity from web-based servers.
On the same day that I was celebrating the miracle of GPS service, I was reminding my teenage son of the limits of 120-text characters in communicating anything substantive with a new romantic interest. A few texts can mislead a relationship as often as guide it. The base rules of timed response and how many words to respond with are far from established etiquette and misinterpretation of other people’s intent is rampant. Still, nothing like a quick text to confirm a meeting place or a menu selection for take-out. The wonder of technology blossoms when we use it in its rightful place.
Yet, who could have predicted the unprecedented use of technology to create an organized uprising for freedom as we have witnessed in the Middle East. It is hard to imagine that 140 characters of Twittering could have built a framework strong enough for a revolt. Social media has eclipsed its own meaning in the world when the youth of a country go beyond the routines of “friending” each other and opt instead for a quest towards new levels of freedom and expression.
Connected to a larger experience is the norm not the exception in the world, and using technology to create expansive social movements where people gather together to risk everything for their ideals is the most heartening of outcomes we can manifest. Finding one’s way in a strange city with too many freeways is a relief beyond measure. Having immediate access to someone you love should not be taken for granted. Being able to have a universal library at your fingertips 24-7 is a revolution of learning possibilities.
Much as I bemoan the overuse of technology as the basis of intimate relationships, I marvel at how it is changing the world in ways that couldn’t have been anticipated and shouldn’t be taken for granted.