Rant & Rave


Thursday, May 10, 2001

Tech benefits outweigh
risk of brain atrophy

I marvel everyday at technology. As I write this, in Chicago, I'm listening to the radio station 105 KINE, which more than anything makes me feel like I'm back home again. Well, I was until "Internet congestion" or some such occurrence halted the stream. The price we pay for progress. And is it a small one!

With a few clicks, I can watch my 'Bows, see what Waikiki looks like now, see what's up in the news, and even get take-out from Zippy's! There is no doubt about it, my generation is spoiled. We want everything at our fingertips, chatting with "buddies" (is that copyrighted by AOL yet?) thousands of miles away, grocery shopping, and home. I'm sure there are places where you can get chicken hekka on-line. The quality, of course, might not be up to par, but again, it's the price we pay for convenience.

All of this makes me wonder how in the world people in previous generations got along away from home. I'm not just talking about Hawaii, but wherever people felt a close connection. Can you imagine going from Boston to Oregon back in the days of the covered wagon? Once you left, you literally left. You probably wouldn't see your family and loved ones again in your lifetime.

I'm sure people back then made the adjustment eventually, maybe because the thought of giving up when so much had already been sacrificed didn't even come up. It would be like turning around when you hit the Rockies. Now, of course, we can fly right back over them.

The bottom line, is technology a sidewalk or a moving sidewalk? Emerson warned, "When we build a carriage, we lose the use of our legs." Does that mean that when we use machines to think for us, we lose the use of our brain?

Probably not. But the bad part about technology is that it can create an environment that is so saccharine that we would rather not go outside, where we actually have to experience freezing our limbs off, as opposed to reading that it "feels like 4 F."

It's like that computer game, "Oregon Trail," which simulates travel from St. Louis to Oregon. It was based on reality (like your carriage could catch on fire), but could you really say that you traveled on the Oregon Trail where life could get a heckuva lot worse than virtually seeing your carriage catch on fire?

Our society is beginning to be based on virtual experiences. We don't want to think or act for ourselves, really. This could lead to moral and intellectual atrophy. But technology is good if used properly. Measure time but do not be bounded by it.

If I sound like an alarmed social Marxist, maybe I am. Don't believe everything you read about him. Sometimes dominoes don't fall and sometimes wagons don't catch on fire.

Leslie Ching is a 1999 graduate of Mid-Pacific
Institute attending the University of Chicago.

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