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Modern Technology Examined, From Two Perspectives, Mine and That Of a Comedian

by edhawk on February 2, 2016

The other night, the TV had been left on as I fell into after-dinner nap. 

I woke up to an HBO comedy special.  On the tube was Ellen Degeneres,

doing one of her stand-up comedy routines.  This one was titled “Here

and Now.”  It’s basic theme was how our lives have become too fast,

too over-booked, with modern technology fueling this obsession with

racing to do WHAT?

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While I don’t have much love for Ellen’s daily TV show, I found her stand-up

material  to be as hilarious and relevant as it always was.  She really is a first

rate comedian and she uses no foul language to spice up her routines.  She is

funnier than most with just the most common of words.

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“Here and Now” doesn’t simply question technology, but also exposes our

most private and unspoken responses to the technology.  We believe these

responses to be so uniquely personal and silent, but Ellen reveals that though

they may come from within our own heads, they are not so unique, indeed,

she reveals them to nearly universal, much to the embarrassing surprise of

her venue’s audience, and HBO viewer as well.

Trust me, this is well worth the nearly 60 minutes out of your ever-too-busy

schedule, to  sit down, lean back and take it all in.  All of your belly laughs will

shake all of the tension out of your uptight neck and shoulders.  It really is

quite good and I highly recommend it’s viewing.

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(Click here to get linked to the You Tube version of “Here and Now.”)

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Here is my take on the same subject, which I published in this blog

about three years ago, not nearly so funny.

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It’s Just One Big Peril after Another, don’t cha’ know?

 

I’ve been around cutting edge technology all through my life. However, I’ve also never been too far away from doing things for myself and living close to the land. I prefer to have my body fat burnt off by productive labors rather than contrived calisthenics, exercise performed purely for their own sake, providing no useful byproducts. Having grown up on our small vegetable farms of the Almaden Valley, we grew crops to sell, but our crops kept us alive as well. Every farm yard had a small vegetable garden near to the house to grow some specialty foods, and the flower gardens surrounding the skirts of the house would contain all the spices, like rosemary and thyme, that the climate and soil could bear. Many of the farms raised a head of beef each year for slaughter, the meat kept in freezers until needed.

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shack

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Later on, to enhance this tradition of self sufficiency, I took to the building trades up in the Santa Cruz mountains to learn more about carpentry than the shed building farmers could ever teach me. Farmers might hack out a rabbit hutch or two, but believe me, they never used squares or plumb bobs. When farmers did carpentry, or car repair, or electrical wiring, it was always out of necessity and there never was any professionalism or polish in their efforts. They would use bailing wire and Elmer’s glue to pull things together just to get to operate through the end of the harvest, because once the harvest started, it didn’t stop until there was no more fruit to pick or vegetables to gather. There was no stopping so broken equipment was simply slapped back together and forced to run until all the ripening fruit and vegetables had been picked and processed right up until there was no more. That’s when you stopped, when there wasn’t any more, and you didn’t stop while there was some little bit more. It all got used up

Nope, I wanted to learn to build buildings with a little more knowledge and substantialness than the farmers allowed for. I wanted to feel sure that I could actually live in a house that I had built with my own hands. Farmers built makeshift hutches and sheds to last through the harvest. I wanted to know how to build stuff that would last through the end of my life. Recently I shared one of my favorite films with a lady friend of mine. This DVD is called “Alone in the Wilderness.” Back in the early 1960s this American naturalist moved to a remote lakeside location and took a small movie camera with him. He built a rough cabin for himself then, year after year, with just the simple materials the forest and lake yielded to him, he just kept upgrading the cabin, and he filmed the process. He made the hinges and locks for his front door from the materials at hand. His chimney, his cookware and his furniture were all made from the same nearby materials by his own hand. For me, this is the epitome of self-sufficiency. However, after sharing this with my lady friend, I found even more satisfaction with the film when she was so supportive of this same self sufficiency and rustic stubbornness. I’d expect most Los Gatos women to want all of the modern conveniences and reject this ingenious but rough hewn life style, but, no, not this one. Like me, she found all of this ingenuity very intriguing and satisfying. It’s great when you encounter people of a genuinely like mind in regards to such an unpopular advocacy.

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GG toll taker

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On the other extreme of such self sufficiency, however, is the situation in which we find ourselves in this day and age. Recently there was a news story about the Golden Gate Bridge getting rid of its toll takers for some totally robotic, full automated system of taking money from bridge users. Hearing of this, I just shook my head in disdain and incredulity. What, they are taking more jobs off the grid? And if works on the Golden Gate, they’ll implement it on other Bay Area bridges. . . even more jobs gone. And what about these automated garbage trucks which lift up the garbage bins with a robotic arm, or the auto assembly lines with banks of disembodied robotic arms doing our fathers’ work more efficiently than our fathers ever could? OK, here’s one I simply love; we have highly efficient mail sorting machines to sort our physical mail going through the U.S. Postal Service. It is estimated that the more than a half the load in each mailman’s bag is usually low cost, junk mail which most people don’t even open up. So, in reality, we are making super fast robots to more efficiently deliver stuff that people don’t even look at. And this bulk mailing stuff that clogs up the system gets the cheaper, more attractive rates. Where is the reality here? We have bar codes on everything so clerks don’t have to touch their key pads and, slowly but surely, these “useless” clerks are being replaced with automated tellers, checkers, and now, even bank clerks, as all you need to deposit a check is to simply take a picture of it with your 4-G cell phone. You don’t even have to GO to the bank, let alone deal with a teller.

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auto assembly robots

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One might point out that such devices frees us up to do more important things, and I have to ask, like what? Perhaps spending your time on some other device where you use this “freed up time” to do social networking on Face book or Linked In? Hmmm? Or maybe watch one of reality television programs or even the pointless, culturally demeaning programs like Maury Povich and his many imitators? And I suppose this new, freed up time could be used to go to one more spectator sport or concert in a huge, automated, modern stadium. Is the purpose of life simply to be a consumer?

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barcode

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From my perspective, as an archaic and non-urbane observer of society, the freeing up of more time for people whose numbers are also becoming more and more, we just aren’t going to have enough things for people to do to burn off all of this freed up human energy. Too much energy usually ends up with some kind of an explosion, or rather, in more inane terms, a release of pressure or energy. From my simplistic, archaic and non-urbane perspective, I see no reason to do something simply because you can. Everything need not be robotized simply because everything CAN be robotized. Let there be garbage men. Let there be grocery clerks. Let there be toll takers. Let there be assembly line workers, and especially here, in this country, here, in this county. In the end, give people something productive, real and energy consuming to do rather than have them sitting around in hoards, trying to figure out what to do, like rats in some nasty experimental cage to see when the rats go nuts from useless overcrowding and eat each other up. And let there also be family planners, ’cause, really, who doesn’t agree that we must curb our exponential population growth.

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atom bomb

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I reiterate, simply because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should do it. I’m from the generation where we could have impaled ourselves on the saber of nuclear holocaust but we decided that, even though we could do it, we wouldn’t do it, at least not today, anyway. My generation’s little bit of sanity gave us the chance to create too many robots and unavoidable population explosions, new perils.

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