You can't reach paradise without roaming charges
By Tish Williams, photograph by Robert Foothorap/Blackstar - October 15, 2000
He strode up the hill in his REI-catalog finest-mesh-lined hiking shorts, Gortex-lined waterproof boots and body-heat regulating spandex shirt. Pounding stride after stride into the hill, he wound his way up into the tree-dotted edges of the Bighorn Mountains.
|High-tech workers simultaneously cry out for relief and toil all day to extend technology's harassment of an increasingly agitated populace|
Ah the good life. Horseback riding, thick slabs of prime rib and fly fishing. As he crested the hill, the flatlands sprawled out before him, and his heart leapt as he looked down and saw the object of his desire.
His cell phone's reception gloriously climbed to four full bars. Time to check voice mail!
Where did we go wrong? Envisioned by technologists of yore as a peaceful, recreational beast, the human was supposed to be pacified by innovation. We were meant to evolve from slaying woolly mammoths into white-collar workers, facing only the threat of the occasional paper cut.
Men and women would manipulate information-as technology worked its wonders-building, plotting, stamping and constructing a world to human specifications. Workers would cast aside the hardhat of the industrial era for the logoed baseball cap of the Information Age. There would be yacht clubs, a racing gross domestic product, motivational retreats to encourage team bonding and a Wolfgang-Puck-themed restaurant on every corner, for the amusement of a well-rested public.
We only got half way there.
Instead of being freed by information, we have become obsessed. We can track our personal finances down to the last bag of Ruffles. We can peruse the finest international newspapers for the latest machinations of failing governments on the other side of the globe. We rustle up Zagat's listings on the most toe-tingling cuisine in our areas, no longer satisfied with the deep-fat-fried goodness of our local Chili's. We can select the suppleness of leather interiors in our BMWs before they are even a twinkle in a German automaker's eye.
While bandwidth strives to provide us always-on Internet connections at home, we have lost our capacity for turning technology off. When our loved ones don't reply to our e-mails in two hours or less, we leave them a voice mail, try the cell phone, send them a page and sulk humorlessly until we receive a reply.
Where is the peace? The chirping of birds? The directions of the OnStar system pointing out the road less-traveled, instead of the hypercongested suburban highways that lead to our next meeting?
Don't hold your breath. High-tech workers simultaneously cry out for relief and toil all day to extend technology's harassment of an increasingly agitated populace. Soon our refrigerators will cast disgusted glances our way as they monitor our atrociously unbalanced diets. Our toilets will tip off our employers to our extracurricular activities. Our dogs will be identified by the chips implanted under their skin and be rerouted to us via electronic postage tattooed on their ears.
Lassie, I knew you'd come home!
Can't we crawl back on our bellies to the techno-paradise envisioned by our corporate forefathers? A world where ever-increasing computer power would allow computers to solve our biggest problems, while we play badminton on the lawn in Ralph Lauren V-neck sweaters?
Instead we are overly competitive, over-stimulated and lamentably overboard when it comes to the Internet, personal communications devices and love of gadgetry.
We need to escape from our info-husks. We need to voluntarily get back to the simple life. And promise, cross our hearts and hope to die, to leave our cell phones behind.
Tish Williams is a columnist for The Street.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.