Albert Einstein said, “I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots.”
Most parents have heard a voice from the back seat asking, “Are we there yet?” If we’re not “there yet,” we're getting pretty darn close to the “day” old Al feared.
Technology has exploded over the past few decades. I remember using a couple of tin cans and a string to talk to my brother in another room when we were kids. It was actually easier to yell at him, but we thought it was cool to talk long distance.
Then came the party line telephone and the exciting opportunity to listen in on our neighbor Mildred complaining to Ethel about the theft of her prize watermelon during the night by evil neighborhood boys. My friends and I would sometimes camp out overnight in my backyard and we’d always get hungry. Who doesn’t like watermelon?
“Number please” was the voice of the operator, who could somehow facilitate a conversation, if the line was clear. But methods of conversation today seem less personal. We keep in touch with friends via email. We don’t even have to say anything. We can simply forward a joke. But that's a form of contact and it maintains the connection. And that's not bad.
My wife says that boys and girls communicate differently. Little girls sit face-to-face and look at each other as they talk. Boys sit side-by-side staring at a dirt clod and talk to each other without making eye contact. Evidently girls communicate more intimately and personally than boys. Maybe eye contact is the key. Today kids sit side-by-side and text each other.
All this techie stuff seems to come naturally to my grandkids. How do they do it? Maybe it’s some sort of neurological mutation caused by microwaves in the atmosphere or a dormant gene that hatched spontaneously in these kids caused by eating McDonald’s Happy Meals.
I hope Einstein is wrong, but personal contact and communication does seem to be on the wane. I use email. And I use the computer. I also depend on my GPS to find my way from the kitchen to the bathroom. But since we can’t get cell phone reception here in the mountains, my cell phone is as useless as the breasts on a cloistered nun. I only keep the phone as a status symbol. Most folks up here rely on smoke signals.
I have to confess that all these computers and phones with buttons and beeps make me feel like an idiot. But I think my generation has managed to balance technology and humanity.
Women still talk to women and make eye contact and men still talk while watching football on TV. But how can you make eye contact when your team is in the red zone with a 6 point deficit and 3 seconds to go in the game? Any guy who tries to make eye contact with another guy in a situation like that is too light in the loafers to be watching a football game anyway.