News and Tribune

May 13, 2013

CUMMINS: Let technology enhance your humanity

By TERRY CUMMINS
Local columnist

If humanity is important to humankind, then you should look at yours. Humanity is much different from other things in our lives. It encompasses our hearts, minds and souls, leading to a spiritual life, if you choose to pursue one. Humanity is the human qualities which separate you from animals, although there are animal species possessing qualities that are closer to humans than people trapped in the cyber realm. Many thinkers think the spiritual dimension is the key to your humanity. If your purpose in life is to learn how to use high-tech stuff and use it as a religion, you are neglecting your spiritual growth.

Humanity seemed to be progressing fairly well, but rather slowly until nerds began tinkering with technology. A few years ago, man awakened from a stupefying slumber to the realization that drudgery stifles human growth and interferes with the meaning of his life. Man spent too much time hunting and gathering, mowing lawns, declaring wars, writing letters and dialing cumbersome phones, getting wrong numbers or busy signals. It was difficult to enhance humanity when man was preoccupied with keeping up with the Jones family. Our neighbor Jones family didn’t have a clue as to the meaning of anything.  

If somehow man could change channels with a remote, dial quickly on the spot and mow lawns and fight wars with robots, he could devote more time to having fun, and when that ran its course, work on his spiritual life.

What happened was that as brain power developed, man discovered technology and said, “This will free us.” Free us from what? Free us to create passwords that open digital doors. Hesitatingly, I jumped on the rocket-speed bandwagon. It was a personal mistake, as I struggle to gain Facebook friends. 

Here I sit at a computer surfing for answers when I could be having more fun or pursuing an aesthetic, or better yet, a spiritual life. Do I tweet, blog, text, face the facts with Facebook or link up with LinkedIn? I’m over-linked as it is. Where’s a hacksaw when you need one?

Patience is a virtue sitting before a computer, or texting in a grocery store. Think Job with sores and Moses wandering 40 years. Maybe, just maybe, tech might free us when it releases our hands from holding on tightly to compact devices. What’s frustrating, though, is that as you try keeping up with the latest, it’s not the latest. Tech nerds are out of their minds. Each day is a new breakthrough. BlackBerrys, Bluetooth, Firefox; they’re running out of names for this stuff.

  Finally, a breakthrough. Google Glass is a device that wraps around your head, freeing your hands to drive a car or eat. A sharp tech journalist, Kevin Sintumuang, reports, “Google Glass is the futuristic eyewear that puts a tiny, voice-controlled, Wi-Fi-enabled computer on your face. Soon you’ll be able to view emails, text messages and maps on a translucent screen hovering in the upper-right corner of your peripheral vision. Breaking news alerts will appear right before your eyes.”

The Google Glass is a band that goes around your head something like an ear warmer or a sweatband Lebron James wears. Freeing your hands, it takes photos and videos at a mere voice command, “Glass, take a picture.” You can also wear Glass to bed to use during a sleepless night, when you’re worried about missing late-breaking news or need to check on critical messages that can’t wait until the rising of the sun. 

I remember when the advent of technology freed up our hands, 63 years ago. We milked our cows by hand, sitting there contentedly pumping away using two hands to crisscross the four spigots provided by the cow. Technicians then strung wires to the barn, hooked up a bucket with four rubber suction cups that clung and pumped to the four spigots until relieving each cow of her burden and ours as well. We saved about four minutes per cow, but there was something about losing the intimate connection of man with nature when machines took over.

We save much more time than that now with the cumbersome hand-held iSmart-things now strapped on to our continuing bewildered heads. You may want to wear your Glass 24/7. However, remember the little screen, extending a couple inches from your right eyeball. Greet and hug another member of the human race, and you risk poking her in the eye.

When will it end — humanity, that is? 

— Contact Terry Cummins at TLCTLC@AOL.com