My grandparents, who passed away in their 80s back in the mid-1990s, were thoroughly befuddled by the microwave — and a television remote control, according to my grandfather, was “only for the lazy.”
I can only imagine what my grandparents would think about such things as the Internet, email and cell phones that not only make telephone calls but also handle the Internet, email and any number of games. Because my grandfather used a manual push-mower well into his 70s and my grandmother reheated coffee in a pan on the stove until her last days, I feel sure neither of them would even experiment with any of the new technology of today.
While all of the techno-advances have been touted as progressive and continues to “improve” almost daily, one has to wonder exactly how much these things really do improve our lives.
Certainly the ability to stay connected with family, friends, the workplace and beyond has been beneficial with the cell phone. And the fact that almost anyone can carry around a miniature computer in their pocket has made tremendous possibilities in global e-commerce a regular thing.
It’s pretty tough to argue against the advances we’ve experienced over the past 30 years, especially when compared to the previous 30 years when some of the biggest advances were indoor bathrooms and air-conditioning.
But where is it all going?
I’ll try to give you an idea …
— Recently, the Elizabethtown Rotary Club was given a little insight into a new wave of clubs being created, called e-clubs. These are clubs that don’t meet at a local restaurant each week. They are clubs that “meet” online. I will assume that the spark for these clubs might have been to keep members who have grown older and can’t get around as well involved to some degree.
— For a while now, grade schools have stopped teaching their students cursive writing — most likely because texting and emails hardly require cursive writing and, really … who writes a letter anymore (just ask the U.S. Postal Service)?
— More and more schools, especially colleges and universities, are moving toward online classes.
— There are fast-food restaurants that have begun testing touch-screen ordering and eliminating the front counter order-takers — literally putting the food choices at your fingertips.
— Cars are becoming more and more self-operating, with those that can park themselves and stop themselves.
Pretty cool and exciting times, right? Maybe.
While each of these things seems to be impressive and offer their own individual advantages, collectively they may also be pointing us toward a day when life is vastly different than we know it now.
That day will be one where people will hardly ever — perhaps never — need to leave their home. The spoken word won’t be necessary. Societal interaction will be nearly null and void. Almost everything will be handled through a computer — probably on something that will become known as a “cell computer,” since speaking on a phone will be unnecessary. All work will be done from home; all schooling will be done from home; all civic clubs will meet only online; all social gatherings will be done through face time online; and all food, clothing, household items, etc., will be ordered online, put together by robots and delivered by robotic vehicles to your door.
It’s easy for us today to think, “nah, those things can’t happen.”
You think that my grandparents, back in the 1950s when a good portion of the country was just getting indoor plumbing, air-conditioning, televisions and even indoor kitchens were thinking, “yep, I can see a day ahead when microwaves will cook food in seconds, telephones will be carried in pants pockets and satellites will send directions to anywhere in the country on little screens on car dashboards”?
We’ve come a long way since the “Little House on the Prairie” days. Whether it’s all good or not is for each of us to decide for ourselves.
I just know that my grandparents would still get off the couch to change a television station, heat coffee on the stove, hand-write a letter and make calls from the telephone on the kitchen wall — and be perfectly happy doing it.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.