Friday, March 4, 2011

The Machines Have Won

First there was the cell phone. For millions and millions of people, a first line of communication and interaction between themselves and others. Then there was the internet with all kinds of social networking and virtual worlds in which people can lose themselves. Then Watson came along and won Jeopardy, beating the famed Ken Jennings. It seems that machines are taking over.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a Luddite. I like technology as much as the next guy. I've got a computer, iPod, GPS, and any other number of gadgets. They all do their job extremely well. The one thing they can't do is think. All of these devices are only as good as the developers and programmers who put them together. Why is it then that we are slowly allowing them to take over our lives? I've seen people walk into light posts while texting and walking down the sidewalk. I've seen people get into accidents because they were talking on the phone. Now someone has spent three days in the woods because of a GPS device.

Here's what I don't understand – Was this person not driving the car? Who was making the decisions about where the car was going? Does this person have no common sense? As near as I can tell the person in question was travelling from point A to point B and relying on an in car GPS to get there. The road from this point A to point B is really straight forward. I've been on it. Basically follow the road signs and you will get where you are going. This person however allowed the GPS to take a route that led from a main highway to a secondary road to an unpaved and unplowed logging road where the car became stuck and where it remained for 3 days.

Here are my questions: Did you not notice the road signs directing you to your destination? Were you paying attention as each successive road became less and less passable? When did you let the machine take over activities (like thinking) better left to your brain?

I like machines and gadgets. They make my life easier and more enjoyable. I do not let them run my life though. They are tools which are only as good as the user and developer can make them. I use my own common sense and intuition to make my decisions. Apparently common sense is becoming less and less common.