Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Stupid phones!

The motto of many, many "smart phone" owner/operators could be, "My phone is smart, so I don't have to be!"

30 years ago, mobile phones were a very rare novelty. The cell phones of the day were the size of a brick, were useful in very limited areas, and cost $2000. They did one thing rather poorly - make and receive telephone calls. And... most people did just fine without a mobile phone.

In 2016, it's rare to see anybody over 12 or so who doesn't have a "smart phone." And a meaningful percentage of those people seem to be totally focused on that tiny screen, all the live long day!

I challenge you to do your own informal inventory. Look at the people where you are... walking, standing, driving, bicycling, skateboarding, sitting... whatever. It's really quite startling how many will have one elbow cocked at 90 degrees to look at that phone... or in some cases, cradling it lovingly in two hands, like a precious infant or an adorable kitty. (As a mostly-outsider looking on, I can't help but wonder... WHAT could possibly be so interesting on that four-inch screen, that's far more enthralling than the real life all around them?!?)

Has the IQ of our society gone up, as "smart phones" have become ubiquitous? There's precious little evidence of that... and there are disturbing signs that the opposite might be true, in this observer's viewpoint.

FIRST: You don't need to know anything, if you can look everything up on your "smart phone."

SECOND: Observe some of the stuff that "smart phone" operators do, on account of their staring at their phones! They walk into manholes and fountains, and step off curbs. Worse... they get behind the wheel of their car, and maim/kill themselves and innocent bystanders. 30 years ago, I'm confident that collisions involving distracted driving were less common than they are today. (There have always been distractions... but the "smart phone" has taken distracted driving to a whole new disturbing level, and apparently our society deems the collateral damage acceptable.)

A couple weekends ago, I was bicycling through a nearby city park. It seemed there were considerably more smart-phone zombies than usual, standing or lurching about, staring at their phones. Turns out it was almost certainly related to the latest smart-phone craze - Pokemon Go. Oh, joy! Proponents are defending it: "Well, at least it gets the kids out of the house and doing something." Seriously? Is that where we are, as an enlighened society? We need some sort of smart-phone game to get people outside (where they stare at their phones some more)? (If you're interested, HERE is a video taken on a Baltimore cop body-cam. A driver sideswipes a cop car, and his declared reason is because he was playing Pokemon on his "smart phone.") Beam me up, Scotty!

[NOTE: The main reason I have strong feelings about "smart phones" is the tendency of their users to do really REALLY stupid stuff that endangers other people. I witness it up close and personal, almost every day. If they were only putting themselves at risk with their entertainment/lifestyle choices, I'd say let nature take its course! The smart will survive... the dumb, not so much. But "smart phone" users kill and damage both smart and not-so-smart indiscriminately. I sincerely hope we eventually attach some negative stigma to driving around killing people while phone-distracted... that would be a step in the right direction.]

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