We should be wary of technology aware

Published 9:41 am Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My new cell phone calls people on its own.

I know this because people I don’t know call me back, asking why I phoned.

I tell them I didn’t phone them — my phone did. Which makes them sore.

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Unlike the first cell phone I had — it was big and heavy and all I could use it for was to phone other people, which I never did because it cost $400 a minute to do that — my new phone is a “smart phone.”

It is called the HTC Incredible and it is based on Google’s new Android technology — a pretty creepy technology when you think about it.

An android, in science fiction, is a robot that thinks and acts like a human being — which could explain the calls my phone is making.

My Incredible is otherwise amazing. It is a computer that fits in the palm of my hand — it’s 50,000 times more powerful than the giant IBM machines that took up whole city blocks just 30 years ago.

It offers an “open source” operating system — that means anyone can develop software programs to make it do “cool” things.

One program offers GPS. A human voice tells me exactly how to get — “Connelly’s Irish Pub to your right” — exactly where I want to go.

Another lets me display all the bar-code tags I use — for my gym, supermarket, etc. — so I don’t have to carry all those tags around.

Others let me call people anywhere in the world for free, determine the weather no matter where I am, or get instant information and comparative pricing on any product in any store.

Which is a blessing and a curse.

As easy as it is to understand and use the Incredible, it takes time to install and master useful applications. And no sooner do you master one than Google or somebody else invents several hundred more.

If you ask me, these new technologies are driving a quiet revolution in our country.

The old divides — rich vs. poor, liberals vs. conservatives, Democrats vs. Republicans — are so 2008.

All are giving way to the new divide: people who understand technology vs. those who don’t.

The technology-aware will soon rule the world, if they don’t already. They already know everything about us — everything we do is electronically accessible somewhere.

So dependent are we on the technologies they produce — we rely on sophisticated software programs to access our money so we can buy food, gas and, thanks to technological confusion, much-needed alcohol — that he who controls the digital world can, at will, control most everything in our world.

I’m waiting for the day when some pimple-faced kid, tired of still getting wedgies in his senior year of college, will write a program that shuts down our cars, our homes, everything — until we hand over the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and all the gold bullion held by the Federal Reserve.

The technologically aware are different from you and me.

They invented texting, a technology that makes you press both thumbs against a miniature cell-phone keypad to bastardize the English language.

And here I thought we’d mastered keyboard technology with the typewriter, which utilizes all our fingers. What will the technology-aware make us use next? A hammer and chisel!

In any event, my new phone has so many new applications and doodads that I bump things while trying to access other things, and my phone calls people I don’t know.

But I shouldn’t complain. My phone wrote this column.

Tom Purcell is a freelance writer and also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. E-mail Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.