Friday, January 20, 2017

What hath (i)Pod wrought?

       Last week, my wife's smartphone fell from grace . . . and cracked its face (significantly, but in a lovely star-shaped pattern!).  Given that it was four years old, and the battery life was shot, we decided to bite the bullet and replace the phone (rather than just the face). So, we made the appointment and headed off to "Cell-Phones R Us". A short while later we returned home, not only with a new phone, but a new learning curve (as we finally moved her from one platform to another). Embarking on that learning curve was important, however, because, as most of us believe, life without that smartphone might not be "smart".
       Coincidentally, earlier in the week an article appeared in the Denver Post observing that it was (just!) ten years ago that Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. The title of the article was "Apple proved a phone can change the world in just 10 years." While that's a pretty heady title, the article did a pretty good job (pardon the pun) of making its case, through statistics, sales figures, derailment of competition (e.g., Blackberry), etc. Has it been only TEN YEARS since the world began to change???

        Has it been only TEN YEARS since we find ourselves reaching into our pockets or purses every 10-15 minutes to see if someone has emailed/texted/messaged us?  Has it been only in the last TEN YEARS that we have seen articles/advise arise about putting down the phone at least a half-hour before bed, since the "blue light" in the smartphones' display can disrupt sleep? Has it only been TEN YEARS since the old "flip phones" (that were SO cool, looking like Star Trek communicators) have almost gone the way of the dial phone---"Well, yes they WORK, but why bother?"?
       In another coincidence, in the last few days, I had reason to read a passage from the Qu'ran (al-A'raf 191-198) that echoes a very similar passage from Psalm 115.4-8:
Their idols are silver and gold,
made by human hands.
They have mouths but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see;
they have ears, but cannot hear,
nostrils, but cannot smell;
with their hands they cannot feel,
with their feet they cannot walk,
and no sound comes from their throats.
Their makers become like then,
and so do all who put their trust in them.

And I had to wonder how much "trust" we have started to put in our technology. Or maybe, it's not just a matter of trust in technology, it's a matter of where that trust might lead us. I doubt it's much of a surprise that the rise of "fake news" and all that THAT has meant is related to the technology we have created. Or that people are finding "community" on-line rather than in-person. We may have created "silver and gold" idols (just think of the color-choices of most smartphones) to which we are now bound, but which cannot satisfy us.
       I am no Luddite; I, too, rely on my smartphone -- with a self-programmed (created?) custom ring-tone, no less! But I have to wonder where our "creations" will, ultimately, take us? Is it to a more "human" place -- one inhabited by compassion or understanding? Or someplace out of a dystopian science fiction novel. Do we cease seeing, listening, smelling, feeling -- because we think our technology will do it for us? Ancient wisdom would suggest "No!"
       My question is no different than that of the first official message sent in Morse Code across the telegraph in May of 1844 -- beginning, in a way, our technological revolution: "What hath God wrought?"*


* A reference to Numbers 23.23

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