Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Servant or Master

Thanks to a reblog by Welcome to the Typosphere, I read a BBC news article about Gordon Martin, UN Correspondent for Vatican Radio, who still uses a typewriter. An old man, set in his ways, he eschews the use of the computer and has never owned a cell phone. He seems to believe that modern gadgetry can get in the way more than it helps.

After a recent experience at the newspaper office, I'm inclined to agree. As I was laying out the next morning's edition, I realized that our internet connection had gone south. This left me unable to get the weather report, lottery numbers or Associated Press stories. Without all this, it was going to be a very short paper. Either that or I was going to have to draw pictures in the blank pages, or this edition was going to be a nightmare of press releases, or ... horror of horrors ... I was going to have to type up those school lunch menus I'd been sitting on for the last week.

For the life of me I don't understand why the school lunch menu has to go in the newspaper. Italian dunkers, grilled cheese, pizza burgers, whatever. It's what's for lunch. Eat it or go hungry. Pizza burgers are a disgusting arrangement of cheese and sauce on a crusty burger bun. Why does that exist? I swear I've never seen pizza burgers outside of a grade school cafeteria, and I'm displeased to know that this sorry excuse for food is still being served to kids.

But anyway, back to the topic at hand ...

It never ceases to amaze me that when the internet goes down, everything stops. Technology, like money, is a good servant but a bad master. We should embrace the technology that makes things better, faster, more efficient, but we should not forget those skills that preceded the digital age. To do so is akin to sitting at the top of a skyscraper and kicking the foundation out from under us.

I'm not sure what the answer is. Perhaps we need to keep some of the old ways alive. Maybe we should be talking to our neighbors, so that we have a social network that isn't in cyberspace. Perhaps publications need to keep the old machines and lines of communication up and running so we don't miss a beat when the internet gets faulty. Perhaps we need to hone our tinkering skills so that fixing the internet is as common a skill as putting air in the tires.

One way or another, we need to catch up to our own technology.

1 comment:

  1. Well put.

    I'll just add that there are some contexts—important ones—where "better" doesn't mean "faster, more efficient." (We just had Valentine's Day, I'm sure you can think of an example.)