In 2009, the Toyota motor company made several model cars that had one major flaw. In several vehicles, the accelerator (gas pedal) would get stuck and the car would accelerate until the car went out of control leading to crashes that resulted in multitudes of serious injuries and deaths. The cars just went faster and faster until the operators could no longer control their vehicles. Then they would crash and burn…because they went too fast. That’s the key. They went too fast. But the kicker is that it wasn’t their fault. How do you like that? They were victims. Toyota knew what was going on as early as 2009-2010, but because recalls are very costly to the company who issues the recall, they looked the other way, knowing what was happening. In the end, after an FBI investigation, they were fined 1.2-billion dollars for “putting profits before people.”
Well guess what. This world needs to be recalled because it is moving way to fast and we can’t control our lives any better than those drivers could control their cars, and we’re going to crash and burn. Individuals, families, communities, countries, etc…we’re all moving way too fast and it can’t be sustained. We are going to crash and burn as a society sometime soon. And you do know what’s to blame don’t you? All these technologies, and advances, and “progress” that we enjoy in this world that are more detrimental to us than we realize. And there’s no going backwards! We can’t un-ring the bell! It’s just faster and faster with each new discovery touted to improve our lives. Enough already!
The first bell that was rung, that can not be un-rung now is the pager. Invented by Al Gross in 1949, it was first used in New York City’s Jewish Hospital. This allowed physicians to be notified that a message was sent to them. They still needed to call the main operator tasked with taking incoming messages and have it read to them over the phone. These original pagers did not have the capacity to show a phone number, so they were simply a way for the MD to know someone wanted them. As late as 1980, Motorola© pagers were still relatively small in number and were still primarily relegated to use by the medical communities at a number of about 3.2 million worldwide. However, in just fourteen short years, pagers had begun being marketed to the general public and by 1994 there were over 61 million pagers owned for personal use. That marks the beginning of people being able to be reached whenever another entity wanted to reach them…and it would only get worse from there.
As pagers grew in popularity, people began realizing that once a page came in to them, they needed to respond. That meant needing to find a pay phone if you were on the road. If only they had thought to make a phone that could be in your car so that when a call came in you could INSTANTLY answer your page. Well, more popular than mobile phones in the 1970’s and 1980’s was the car phone (second bell that can not be un-rung). Mobile phones back then were large and cumbersome and most people didn’t like having to carry them, so they opted for car phones instead. However, now, when a page came in, the one carrying the pager could INSTANTLY make the phone call without having to stop and find a phone. But still, not everyone had a car phone, but even the ones that had a car phone, just needed something to carry on them that would allow them to answer a page from anywhere at anytime without having to be in their car. If only they could make mobile phones more convenient.
The origin of the cell phone (third bell) goes something like this. In 1956, it was invented in Sweden by Erricson and weighed 90 pounds. The upgraded version in 1965 weighed 20 pounds. Now you see why car phones won out over mobile phones. In 1973, Motorola© got it down to 30 ounces, but the cost was $3,500. That price limited service to only around one million users. Today, some cell phones weigh 3 ounces and there are many people opting out of a landline in favor of their mobile phone now, as prices have become much more manageable.
Now here’s where the accelerator begins to get stuck. The original cell phones could do little more than make or receive calls. Some had texting options, but little else. However, from the 1993 Simon© for $899, to the Palm Pilot©, to Research in Motion’s BlackBerry©, phones began to be able to send and receive faxes. Very early on they had touchscreens…but in 1990, the BlackBerry was able to browse the web and receive and send emails. Today, millions upon millions have smart phones (major league bell) like the iPhone©, the Android©, Amazon©, or Google©, all complete with touch screens and capabilities far beyond what as ever dreamed possible by Alexander Graham Bell when he phoned his assistant Thomas Watson and said, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you!”
We now have the ability ANYTIME to do ANYTHING nearly ANYWHERE we want to with our phones. We can send texts. We can make phone calls. We can take pictures and videos. We can upload said videos and pictures to Facebook©, Twitter©, Instagram©, and YouTube© to name a few. We can stream live videos. We can watch movies on our phones. We can check emails. We can create documents in a Word program and email it to people. We can play games. We can do stupid things with our smart phones with the help of apps. Unlike years ago, today there is no reason someone can’t get you for something and you can’t respond back immediately…and that’s not good!
With the exception of making a phone call, everything we do with our smart phones can be done on our personal desktop computer. What’s nice about the desktop computer is that it is static and can not be taken with you. That allows us to have a break from everything and time for ourselves. Imagine if you can’t access your work email unless you were at work! Imagine if you can’t check your personal email unless you are home. Imagine if you could only update Facebook© when you were sitting in front of your computer at home. Imagine if we left our phones at home too. Well, the problem is that we ONLY imagine and don’t actually try it.
We have become controlled by our technologies and what they are capable of doing. Case in point…I golfed with a lawyer several year ago. He would hit his shot, and check his phone for messages. Then he would hit his next shot and check his phone. It’s not like he checked it every half hour. He checked it after every shot. Tell me his mind was fully on the golf game and he wasn’t thinking about his work while he played…and this was on a weekend!!! Our technologies, especially our smart phone technologies have consumed us. We feel we can’t escape because IF (and that’s a big if) we left our smart phone at home, and went out, and someone wanted us for something and they couldn’t reach us, that they’d be mad. Well what used to happen? If you couldn’t get someone, you kept trying until it was not necessary any longer.
I personally feel a flip phone or pay as you go trac-phone that only can make phone calls is perfect to take with you in the case of an emergency. I personally feel you ought to leave the hand-held personal computer at home when you go out. It disgusts me to go out to eat and see a parent and a child sitting across from each other, BOTH on smart phones. Just go to any mall, and sit, and count how many people are on their smart phones while eating. Then walk around the mall and see how many people are walking while reading, or texting, or viewing something on their smart phone. We have become controlled by our technologies!!! There is no rest for the mind. There is no rest from a stressful job. Life just keeps getting faster and faster as technologies afford us the ability to do more and more things at the push of a button! I wonder if Alexander Graham Bell would be happy or sad to see what has become of his invention…the telephone.
From 1939 to 1945, the Manhattan Project looked to beat the Germans in the development of an atomic bomb. Several scientists worked hard to invent the atomic bomb. They succeeded in developing the technology needed to build and detonate an atomic bomb. In 1945, in a New Mexico desert, the bomb was tested. On hand were scientists Isidor Rabi, Robert Oppenheimer, and Ken Bainbridge. As soon as they saw the destructive capability of what they created, they immediately wanted to un-ring that bell. Rabi believed the bomb they had created became a threat to the world they inhabited. Oppenheimer quoted a work and said, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” Bainbridge used a phrase too colorful to mention on this website. They were among several scientists that signed a petition to halt the production and eventual use of the atomic bomb. At least they saw the immediate ramifications of their invention. No way Bell ever saw this coming.
Which takes me all the way back to the drivers of those Toyotas, where the accelerator got stuck and drivers and their passengers crashed and burned. They were the victims of the technology that went awry. They were along for the ride, so to speak. There was nothing they could do once it happened, nor could they have done anything to prevent it from happening if they knew nothing of the problem. But with our lives being accelerated out of control by our technologies, we are NOT victims. We are willing participants. Our ENTIRE life goes with us wherever we go and is available 24/7!!! Everything is INSTANT! We are trained to hear our phone give the tones for a text, email, voice mail, Twitter response, etc… Many of us I’ve seen react like Pavlov’s dogs when a notification comes to our phones and we grab it ASAP to see what it is. We are so controlled. Including me to some extent…so here’s what I’m doing…
I have a company phone that handles work emails, texts, phone calls, among other things. I have been known to check the work emails on the weekends and after hours sometimes. I am hired Monday through Friday 8:30-5:00. I will let work know that from now on, I will turn my phone off at 5:30pm and keep it off until 8:30am. It will remain off all weekend long as well…and I will not check work emails beyond business hours M-F. My own personal cell (which I hardly use at all anyway) will remain on for phone calls since we dropped the landline several years ago. I’m VERY tempted to turn it off when I go out, but to keep it with me in case of an emergency call I would have to make. Nothing is so important that someone can’t leave a VM and we get it when we return home and turn our phones on again. That’s how things were (back in the day), when you got home and checked your answering machine.
We would all do well to stop using our smart phones, tablets, computers, etc, two hours before bed. The light that is emitted from these screens inhibits the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps to induce sleep. So if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep, killing time on your devices is the worst thing you can do. So I will also stop with the devices by 8:00pm. That should allow for reading books, chatting, listening to music, and just otherwise relaxing, unwinding, and de-stressing…things you can’t do if you are constantly engaging in smart phone activities.
So starting Monday morning, I will start doing those two things. I will notify work Monday morning and begin logging off my devices around 8:00pm every night. God has really been all over me lately about this issue. I yearn for a simpler life, one that mimics days of yesteryear. Back when life was lived at a slower pace. Back when the latest technology was something that didn’t have to be plugged in or take batteries. Back when there was a balance between work and rest. Back when everyone in the household gathered in one room once it got dark because that’s where the lamp was lit.
I’m going to do all I can to wrestle the accelerator from being stuck in my life. I will not be a willing participant in the harmful living of my life anymore. The drivers of the Toyotas had no choice…but I do…we ALL do…every one of us!!!