Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Just who IS the Tool in the Technological Age?

   Those that know me are aware of the fact that I’m kinda ‘Old School’ in most of the things I undertake. I guess this comes from being an ‘Old Dog’, a member of Gen-WTF. As such, I tend to regard technological ‘advances’ with a healthy dose of skepticism.

   I mean, c’mon. How many versions of the i-phone or i-pad are still remaining to be released? Couldn’t they make one to last more than 6 months?

   It’s not that I don’t use and enjoy technology, I do, but I tend to treat it in the way it’s meant to be regarded, as a helpful TOOL, rather than intertwining my life around it.

   (By the way, GAMERS should quit reading right now!)

   Let me give you some true-life examples of what I’m referring to…

   I was spending some time with my nephew one day not long ago, a 13-year-old that rarely goes outside other than to catch the schoolbus, and I suggested to him we should get a little exercise by playing some baseball. I had a couple gloves in the car and was delighted to hear his enthusiastic cheers as I went out to get them…

   Then imagine my horror when I came back in and he had set up a baseball game on his PS-3.

   Okay, here’s another example, one that’s a bit more frightening…

   I had the opportunity a few months back to get in some ‘stick time’ (flying hours) on a Gulfstream G-550, one of the most advanced business jets currently in service. My check pilot was a 28-year-old whiz kid that was busy the entire time expounding the virtues of the ‘glass cockpit’, the LCD digital displays that replace the more traditional dials and gauges on the instrument panel. It had auto-everything, and I'm certain that the avionics alone cost well over a half million dollars.

   Now I’ve logged enough hours in various aircraft types over the years that all these technological ‘advances’ don’t really affect me, and I know that there are several redundant safety measures built in to (hopefully) prevent any catastrophic failures. However, I also know that 'feces occurs', and I said Alan Shepard’s prayer (Please, God, don’t let me fuck up) as I taxied toward the runway.

   Takeoff was uneventful, and I turned on a westerly heading, climbing to level 150 (15 thousand feet), then sat back to enjoy the moment. I mean, here I was flying a Gulfstream, the pinnacle of aviation technology, and I was handling it as well as someone that had years on the stick. But considering that it’s ‘Fly by Wire’, that really isn’t a major accomplishment.

   After a couple hours, we found ourselves heading back, and I was on left base to enter traffic, when the LCD display for the inclinometer, or ‘artificial horizon’, went dark. I cycled the buttons, but the result was ‘No Joy’. My check pilot began to furiously check the breaker panel, hoping to find the problem, but nothing he did could resolve the issue. “What are we going to do?” he asked me, as if I held the answer. “Declare an emergency?”

   We were (thankfully) on VFR, Visual Flight Rules, and I had most of the other instruments still functional, and I had a good, clear visual of the runway threshold, so I took a grease pen and made a line on the windscreen to act as a reference point, allowing me to visualize if I were climbing or descending. I ‘went dirty’, dropping my gear and flaps, and within 20 minutes we were back on the ramp, my undies unsoiled, but my pucker factor up in the red zone.

   “That was a cool trick,” the check pilot told me as the tech weenies swarmed into the cockpit to find the offending problem. “Where’d you learn that?”

   “When’s the last time you were in a real airplane?” I asked him.

   “Ten years maybe,” he said with a look of contrition. "But shit like that rarely happens." 

   And this guy is gonna be a commercial pilot? Not on any flight I'm on!

   Technology can always fail. Usually, it’s something no worse than losing a paper you’ve been working on, or refusing to let you see ‘Avatar’ on Blu-ray. But every so often, because so many of us have become dependent on it, the failure has the potential to be devastating, and hopefully, most of us still know the ‘old-fashioned way’ of doing things.

   So, learn more about how things were done before all the technological ‘advances’ came into being and made us dependent on it for most aspects of our daily lives. Write a letter to a friend rather than sending them an e-mail. Go to the library and check out an actual book, rather than reading Snooky’s biography on your Kindle. Get outside and play catch with your child rather than hooking up the Wii to play Res-evil.

   But most importantly, learn to use technology as it was meant to be; a helpful tool, not a lifestyle.

   Sic vis Pacem, parabellum (or is that visual enhancement?)

   Wiley (Coyote)



  1. That's scary, and I'm with you there. I used to drive a Pontiac Bonneville, I could feel the car beneath me. The new car I drive is technically a 'beater' but it's a 2000 compared to my 'antiquated' '92. Even eight years of car advancement had me on edge and feeling like I was driving a lap top with wheels. I have the same kind of phone I first got, the flip e-mail, nothing but talking, listening, and occasional texting. Most people complain because I never call them. But like I told the Verizon guy trying to sell me an EKG-ap with the newest Blackberry, my favorite thing to do is dress in wool, hang out with smelly old fellas and pretend it's 1863. I don't need an EKG equipped phone. I can start a fire with flint and steel for crying out loud.

    1. Geez I wish we could hang out at the fire sometime. Yeah, I have 'Lucifers', the old matches, but my tinderbox is what I use to get the fire going.
      Nice to know there are other like minds in this crazy world. Thanks for the comments. I look forward to them =)

    2. Waiting for your comments. I wrote new blogs. Really I did.