Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Progress is Our Most Important Product

I love computers and they certainly have made our lives easier in the past few years.  Online banking, online shopping -- the list of conveniences is long.

Like most people, I dislike encountering technical glitches.  The screen freezes for who knows what reason or the printer won’t work.  Issues like those.  It's almost enough to make me want to turn off the darn thing and let it collect dust in the corner.

But I would never to do that.

I enjoy being connected to the entire world which, in effect, is the significance of using the internet.  The whole world connected.  Just think about that.  Not that long ago, when some momentous event occurred, like a world leader died or resigned, it was days before the news got out.  Today when there is trouble in Syria or elsewhere, someone in the crowd likely has a cell phone camera and captures the event.

Last night's news showed newly obtained footage of the recent crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Francisco.  The photos clearly showed the smoldering wreckage shortly after the crash. They were taken from a camera attached to the helmet of a first responder and will hopefully aid in figuring out exactly what happened.  Imagine having photos of other major events almost as they occurred.  Truly amazing.

Unfortunately, despite all of the benefits of computers and related technology, I still know some adults who are terrified of using computers.  In view of how commerce and our very lives are intertwined with computer use, it's difficult to understand.  At the very least, I would think these people might be just a tiny bit curious about the process.

One man I know runs a busy office which relies heavily on computers to generate correspondence, set appointments and balance accounts.  However, this man is among those who have refused to learn more about saving or revising documents, even printing  calendars.  He states that he is afraid he will do something to ruin what is already in the computer.  Further, as long as he surrounds himself with others who understand the process and can problem solve for him, he really doesn't need to know anything more.

Certainly there is a lot of information required to run the world these days.  In one of my favorite movies, Baby Boom, Diane Keaton plays a New York career gal who loses her job and moves to Vermont to start a quiet life.  Upon arrival, she is beset with problems  including a leaky house, a dying furnace and an empty well.  When well dries up, an event which will cost thousands of unexpected dollars, her plumber tries to explain how she will have to run a pipe to tap into the county waterline.  She shrieks, "I don't need to know where the water comes from.  I just want to turn on the tap and have it come out." My apologies if that quote is not verbatim, but the message is clear.  Over-information is overkill.

Over-information can occur when we least expect it.  When the car stops running, the hot water isn't hot, or your watch stops ticking, something is wrong.  What we need to do is find someone to fix it and ask how much repairs will cost.

In that respect, I suppose computers are somewhat intimidating. They may develop problems with printing or some function, but if you are sitting at a desk in your house, how are you going to get help and resolve the problem?  At that moment, you may be required to call some technical whiz to help you.  These people come on the phone and seem brilliant beyond comprehension.  How can they possibly think so quickly on their feet and identify the problem?  When a techie on the phone can tell me what I'm looking at on the screen, well, they could charge me any amount of money and I would pay it.

But even when such events occur, we have to make the effort to pick up the phone and try to get help. Doing nothing is the first step in failure.  We can't be afraid to take a chance.

We shouldn't be afraid to touch a keyboard or drive a car or use a microwave oven.  Yet, I know people who never wanted to learn to do/use any of these devices.  Perhaps they are afraid of looking awkward or making a mistake.  Where would society be if everyone was afraid to try something new?  There would be no airplane, no frozen foods, no electric light bulb, no automobile, no washing machine, no anything.  

At some time, we should all learn to step forward and try something new.  It's called progress.

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