Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Computers and Us

My faithful reader Callalilly offered this comment on the 12/18 "From Univac to Memory Sticks" posting. Callalilly made some very valid points. Much like the automobile and the airplane revolutionized our world and relationships plus opened up travel, the computer has revolutionized the way we conduct our daily lives. As the auto and the airplane also brought problems like noise, pollution and safety issues, the computer has also brought problems with it. I am also guilty of knowing more about the lives and stories of people I have never physically met than I am with my own neighbors. I have to drag my now officially fat ass away from the computer to do my daily swim. I should be out doing something but I am updating the blog.

So I offer Callalilly's comments here for your reading as many visitors do not check out the comment section. Thanks Callalilly for the comment. ~ Pato

For years now, computers have been doubling in memory capacity and speed each year while the price has been dropping by half. Truly amazing technologically.

The issue that needs to be looked at more is how all the technology is affecting us. Does it bring people together or separate them further? We communicate with people far away, yet we are too busy to get together with friends across town. Are the things we do with computers healthy for us? We spend hours on our butts in front of the screen, rather than engaging in more physically or mentally challenging activities. Are we really improving our lives? We have access to all sorts of content, but so much of it is very superficial. We can waste so many hours on fascinating but meaningless activities like games and "naughty" stuff. We can spend alot of time pursuing our narrow interests, and we are able to ignore bigger issues that might bring us together with more people.

And of course the computer has brought about a huge upheaval in the job market, resulting in various "winners" and "losers".


Anonymous said...

Wow, Callalilly, thanks for writing this, and Don, thanks for posting it! I'll play Devil's advocate to your sensible post.

As a confirmed internet-aholic, the web gives me everything I want, and it is the greatest tool ever invented. The greatest civilizations in history — Persia, Carthage, Greek, Rome — were built by sharing information and technology among cultures, and internet is designed for sharing. I miss friends and family, but due to economic neccesity, I don't live near them, and haven't my whole adult life. Driving across town (or state) costs money I don't have. Hotel rooms, gas, and speeding tickets can drain an account fast. Thanks to the internet, I now have friends in Australia, Malasia, France, Germany, England, and India. I know my neighbors, but I don't hang out with them. Why? Because I have more in common with my friend in Denmark than I have with the guy next door. I don't hunt; he does. I don't fish; he does. I don't go to church; but the neighbor behind is a catholic and repub. Yes, I'm fat and don't jog around the beautiful park across the street from me. But my wife runs a nursing home and I don't want to live long enough to suffer Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and any other mind/body-eroding ailments. Trust me when I say you DO NOT want to live to be 100. It's not what you think it is. I'm not using my body to meet potential mates, nor would I want to.

Thanks to the internet, I can learn virtually anything for free. With sites like Wikipedia,, Google, the world is my oyster. "Meme" sites pool information and articles written from around the world centered around my chosen interests. I can even listen to my favorite music, Opera, anytime using a streaming site called Viva la Voce. Thanks to the internet, I can enjoy any kind of porn I want, and try things I'd never thought about. Also, sex online is much safer because of its virtual nature. I don't have to cheat, I don't have to entangle myself with another relationship (nor do I get bogged down in one), and I can engage in any virtual fantasy I want without breaking the law. No one gets hurt, and everyone is happy. Thanks to the internet, I find others who share my liberal political and (non)-religious views. Thanks to the internet, I can find someone who could specifically use my help and expertise, and give them a hand. Without the monetary resources to go far from my house, I have a hard time doing that in little Rolla, Missouri. Thanks to the internet, I can watch less TV than ever with the help of file-sharing sites like YouTube. If something happened on a show that's important, someone will upload it so I won't miss it.

And finally, thanks to the internet, I can make a positive contribution of my talents to the world. Now I may not make any money, but in small, measurable, specific ways, I have made the world a better place. My interests have been greatly expanded thanks to being connected, not narrowed. I don't play computer games, but I fully understand the propensity to waste a life in trivial pursuit. The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead wrote in the 1910s and 20s about the natural human lure toward "novelty," or newness. Think of shoppers or collectors or anyone who can't wait for the 'next' new thing. The pursuit of novelty is the enemy, not necessarily technology. Thus, the social advantages the internet provides — learning, anonymity, shared interests, pooled knowledge — have given us powers we've never known in human history. I hope it stays that way, too, because this is a great time to be alive, despite our predictable political tragedies of late.

Anonymous said...

Z, Small world! I have an aunt who lives in Rolla.

You make some excellent points. There is a great deal of good that comes from computers and the internet. I have made my living in the computer industry for 25 years. The unexamined assumption that if we CAN do something, it must be a GOOD thing to do worries me.

I find myself making time to visit the internet everyday. What concerns me is what is getting squeezed out of my life to make room for my online activities. I wonder about the tradeoffs I am making.

I have "met" lots of wonderful people online with whom I have more in common than anyone around me. Still, I have to wonder if it is really a good thing to spend so much time with people so much like ourselves. I think it's important to be exposed to other views and interests. They makes us think and maybe even reexamine our own views. So maybe it is a matter of how we use the technology. Do we use it to isolate and insulate ourselves, or to expand ourselves?

There is alot of information easily available on the internet. Unfortunately, in my experience, an awful lot of the information is pretty superficial. Granted, when I am interested in something, I become almost obssessive about learning EVERYTHING about it. Trouble is, the stuff I find on line just skims the surface. It usually isn't even as good as a mediocre book on the topic. Oh, one exception to this has been that my vocabulary of "bad" words has vastly expanded! I used to think I knew them all, but I now know I used to live a very sheltered life!

Porn has been a driving force in improving internet technology. The need for good graphics and speed have pushed the technology forward. Online sex can be safe and convenient, but even so, it's not necessarily benign. I know of several people who got involved in online relationships and while they weren't physically unfaithful, they were involved emotionally and it took a toll on their real relationships. People got hurt. I guess we should ask, does our significant other know about and approve of all our online sex activities? If so, I would agree, no harm done.

You have more self control than I do - I love computer games. But what a waste of time!! A little goes a long way. It's no worse than watching a TV sitcom, but you don't want to spend all your time at it. Again, it's a matter of degree.