Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

As a member of Generation X, I was raised almost entirely without any sophisticated technology in the home. With the exception of a video game here or there, the only entertainment we had was the TV or radio. Our generation is special. We get to have it both ways. We remember the “good ‘ol days” before social media and Candy Crush could entertain us to no end, so much so that perception of reality is bent. Yet we also know the benefits of technology. Our children can write a research paper without even stepping into a library. How great is that! Wait, what?

When I was in sixth grade, I took a Computer Literacy course that taught us how to write a few lines of BASIC programming on a Commodore 64. After a few short weeks I was hooked. I knew what I wanted to do with my life! When I went to college, I enrolled in the Electrical and Computer Engineering program. Needless to say, it was quite challenging and after three semesters I decided it was not for me. Although I do not consider myself an extrovert, I was a social butterfly compared to my classmates. We had nothing in common and I did not fit it. I’m not quite sure how I ended up in the English Literature department, but I do remember falling in love with reading and writing. Then a few short years after graduation I found my dream job that combines both my love of computers with my love of the English language. I became a Business Systems Analyst, working as a liaison between corporate business users with no technical aptitude and computer programmers with no people skills. Together we wrote computer specs that became programs the business team could use to make their lives easier. My dream job—using my aptitude for technology and my communication skills to make money.

Anyway, back to technology in the home. As I was saying, I love everything about technology and how it has evolved since the 1980’s. The American home is now completely unrecognizable with iPods, iPads, iPhones, and personal computers. There is not simply one device per home, but one—or more—per family member. It really is amazing when you think about it. I do try my best to follow the “expert” advice and limit my children’s usage to only a few hours per day, but I admit I am not very strict about it. Only time will tell how much—if any—damage we are doing to our children’s developing brains by allowing them to use this technology on a regular basis.

So I go through this agonizing dilemma at least once a day trying to decide is it good, is it bad, does it even matter? Imagine my surprise when I read this article recently about Steve Jobs. His children never even used an iPad. What?! And something even more surprising, he sent them to private schools that used NO technology whatsoever. He and his wife were “overly concerned with technology” and therefore were extremely cautious when it came to exposing it to their kids. Hmmm.

While I agree with him 100%, something about this revelation is not sitting right with me. Steve Jobs was a visionary—he completely revolutionized four different industries with the first Apple home computer, and later with the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Why is it ok for him to sell these devices to the rest of us but they are not okay for his own family? A little strange on the surface, but possibly explained away. However, my Orwellian nature suspects a potentially different reason for his caution.

I often say to my Software Engineer husband how convenient it is that so many people on the planet now own smart phones. With their GPS tracking capabilities it would be very easy for this information to get into the wrong hands. We were not surprised when it came to light that Apple had software embedded in the iPhone that tracks our every move. Innocent, I am sure. More recently, the knowledge of NSA’s tracking of American citizens has shocked our country. However, we should all take a good look at our own technology stockpile and think about what we have allowed.

Orwell’s Big Brother used cameras and microphones in plain sight. Not only are we bringing hidden cameras and microphones into our homes, we do it willingly and pay for it with our own money. What a great deal for a government that may want to use this technology someday to track our every move, listen to our conversations, or actually watch what goes on in our homes.

Oh, and by the way, the United States is not the only government with the capability to potentially intrude into our private lives. Most of our technology devices are now manufactured overseas, primarily in China. How hard would it be for a foreign government to install hidden software on these devices? There are currently about 1.75 billion smart phone users globally and 16 billion total internet devices, including smart phones, tablets, and PCs. The latter number is expected to reach 40.9 billion by 2020.  Think about that number and the potential exposure of the entire population of the world.

No, I am not implying that any government is currently spying on us via our phones or tablets. However, if a government or corporate entity decided to track our every move, monitor our conversations, or peer into our living rooms, the infrastructure is already in place. The only thing required to implement a Big Brother network in our country would be Congress, or a pen and paper with a sweeping Executive Action. In another country, it may be even easier.

We are all willing participants in this awesome technology that allows tremendous on-demand capabilities for both education and entertainment. We have become quite dependent and are more than happy to keep this infrastructure in place. Yes, this technology age is awesome and we want our children to be part of it. However, I urge you to also think of the potentially negative consequences. Maybe Steve Jobs had the same concerns. Or maybe he knew something the rest of us are unaware of. Either way, I think I will use more caution in the future and limit the device use in my home, for better or worse.

R.B. Cooper

R.B. Cooper

Independent warrior for peace, health, and common sense.

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