Thought you might be intrigued with these musings
Sort of reminds one about what calculators did to mental arithmetic skills ….
Connected, Yes, but Hermetically Sealed
Everybody's Business By BEN STEIN in New York Times Published: August 23, 2008
What would Rousseau have made of the modern-day balls and chains with which we shackle ourselves? They are not made of steel or iron, but of silicon and plastic and digits and electrons and waves zooming through the air. These are the chains of all kinds of devices, like the BlackBerry, the iPhone and the Voyager. These are the chains with which we have bound ourselves, losing much of our solitude and our ability to see the world around and inside us.
Consider an airplane flight. We are soaring across the country. We listen to music. We read books and newspapers. We sleep and dream. If you are like me, you look at the cloud formations and listen to Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A major. Maybe you talk to your neighbors.
You are free to think and to reflect on existence and on your own small role in it. You are free to have long thoughts and memories of high school and college and the first time you met your future spouse.
Then, the airplane lands. Cellphones and P.D.A.'s snap into action. Long rows of lights light up on tiny little screens. These are people we absolutely have to talk to. Voice messages pour in, telling of children who got speeding tickets, of margin calls, of jobs offered and lost. The bonds of obligation, like handcuffs, are clapped back onto our wrists, and we shuffle off to the servitude of our jobs and our mundane tasks. A circuit is completed: the passengers who were human beings a few moments earlier become part of an immense, all-engulfing machine of communication and control. Human flesh and spirit become plastic and electronic machinery.
What if we didn't have cellphones or P.D.A.'s? We would still have duties and families and bosses, but they would not be at our heels, yipping at us constantly, barking at us to do this or that or worry about this or that. We would have some moat of time and space around ourselves. Not now.
Consider another example: Walk down the Avenue of the
There is no community here — or on the streets of any other city.
Or consider our beloved young people. I see them in
I keep thinking of my happiest moments of youth, walking along
Now, there is no thought or reverie. There is nothing but gossip and making plans to shop or watch television. The cellphone and the P.D.A. have basically replaced thought. When I was a young White House speech writer, we communed with one another and otherwise read and wrote quietly in our offices. We had mental space. No more.
I spent much of the summer in my beloved
WHAT would we do if cellphones and P.D.A.'s disappeared? We would be forced to think again. We would have to confront reality. My own life is spent mostly with men and women of business. I have been at this for a long time now, and what I have seen of the loss of solitude and dignity is terrifying among those who travel and work, or even who stay still and work. They are slaves to connectedness. Their work has become their indentured servitude. Their children and families are bound to the same devices, too.
But try a day without that invasion of your privacy. Or a week. You will be shocked at what you discover. It's called life. It's called nature. It's called getting to know yourself. I have a close friend who is in prison. He used to be imprisoned by his P.D.A. He has many stories, but the most haunting one is about how, without his phone, without his P.D.A., he has come to know, for the first time, who he is.
Will the rest of us ever get the chance? Will we ever throw away the chains that go "ping" in our pocket? Or have we irrevocably become machines ourselves?
Ben Stein is a lawyer, writer, actor and economist. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.