Thursday, May 01, 2008


Yesterday, at a meeting with our new campus technology guru, I had a wave of weariness hit me like a tsunami.

Sheldon, the guru—that’s his name, Sheldon (seems like it should be Buzz Lightyear or something)—sat taking notes on his notepad computer as we discussed software we needed to have loaded on student laptops for next fall and whether it would be compatible with Microsoft’s VISTA operating system (which, by the way, will be replaced in 2010 because of consumer complaints about that new operating system). Anyway, as Sheldon spoke, that’s when the tsunami struck and I felt like I was being sucked under in a huge tidal wave of complexification and feature fatigue.

A couple of years ago, Ellen Goodman (Boston Globe) wrote an editorial in which she described a new toothbrush (the IntelliClean System) that comes with an instructional DVD. Ms. Goodman said, and I agreed, it was the final straw in the “complexification” of everyday life. When you need an instructional DVD to do a job that you could also do by smearing a little toothpaste on your finger or a birch twig and rubbing it over your teeth (don’t say you haven’t done it in an emergency), life has gotten too complex.

In the past couple of years, I have added to my personal life: a cell phone, a digital camera, a digital mouse for my laptop, 1-gig flash drives, a digital photo frame, a Picasa album system for organizing photos, Skype satellite-computer phone system, and other technology too numerous to mention.

I also understand that I absolutely should have a blue-tooth, a Blackberry, an MP-3 player, a PSP, an iPod, an HDTV, Ti-Vo, and other technology that people have told me is a necessity . . .

Even Tom’s beloved fishing now uses depth finders and fish finders and underwater cameras and GPS—but he and his fishing buddies still have trouble catching fish on opening weekend.

I would like to selectively keep the technology that makes my life richer—technology that enhances the quality of my life, not the complexity of my life. But I would also like to reserve the right to say “no, thank you” to any new technology that just makes a simple task more complex. “No, thank you very much, sir,” as Benny Koep used to say.

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