November 26, 2008

Virtual Unreality

I've been around computer technology a long time. Most of my career has been in support of and delivery of computer-based software and service solutions. And I was raised in a house with a father who started in "data processing" at the Department of the Navy in 1948 (widely considered the birthplace of the first application of modern computing outside of academia) and who then spent the following 20 years at IBM and then two additional decades at other computer-related service entities. So I spent all my early years listening to grand visions of an electronic future without paper, electronic transactions, and more leisure time due to all the time-saving elements.

One might then expect me to be a mindless proponent of all things technological. Uhm, no. Don't forget the paperless society was supposed to be upon us back in mid-70's. Does anyone actually think we print less paper today? Electronic transactions were supposed to free us from the stress of writing checks, but actually imposed greater limits on how long it takes our creditors to grab our cash directly from out accounts. And what happened to all that free time? In other words, the law of unintended consequences must always be considered and in the technical realm that consideration is oftentimes more complicated than we wish to recognize in our excitement over the latest advance.

All of this is a preface to my stating my intention to occasionally weigh in here with a cold bucket of water for those who fail to ponder the larger societal implications of the technology revolution. Now don't get me wrong, I'm a big believer in the power of technology to improve our lives. I just don't happen to believe it all does, or that even when it does it shouldn't be seen in a vacuum. Does doing something faster mean better, or am I missing something of the process? Do I really need a Tom Tom or Garmin GPS device to tell me to "turn left" when there is a street sign there that tells me this is the road where I am supposed to turn left? See what I mean?

Okay, enough blather about why I think what I think. Today's issue is social networking and why, maybe, it's not such a great thing. Or in the least is greatly oversold, if not dangerous to our consideration of who we are and who are friends really are. Check this out for a very interesting perspective. Thought provoking, no? I mean, whatever happened to, "Do you come here often?"

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