Monday, May 25, 2009

Countdown to Deletion

To start this essay off by stating that the world is changing would be a colossal cliché. Humankind, since first fashioning rocks and sticks into rudimentary tools has been in a constant state of flux.  A steady incline of technological growth and evolution which has no sign of stopping any time soon; bringing to fore wonders that would have been seen by our earliest ancestors as nothing short of magic.

            This very moment I am writing an essay on a machine that is smaller than, but more powerful than the computers that took a few daring individuals to the moon forty years ago. This is why I chose the topic of basic computing and Internet Technology skills as something that I think is a skill that; even in these enlightened times, many people have not mastered or even explored out of fear or lack of opportunity. There are many third world countries where people have never seen a computer, the children who are born in these countries are already at a disadvantage because of poverty, war, lack of education; the technological gaps are astounding. We may think it’s quaint to think of civilizations that have not changed for thousands of years. But, in my opinion these societies could benefit greatly from even the most rudimentary knowledge of what this great machine can do for them. Beyond the lucky few who escape that kind of poverty, and in some cases oppression, how many of those people return to their homelands to educate those left behind. And that is the great consequence of not having this skill: to be left behind, to be blocked from certain careers, education and the quality of life these things provide.

            I see this as not just a growing trend abroad, but here in the United States as well. I can recall several times while waiting in the self-checkout lane in a grocery store, and observing an older person having trouble comprehending a rudimentary technology that many of us take for granted today. I always try to assist this person; if the check-out attendant is busy. The attendant; usually between 18 to 25 years of age, always sighs and huffs when helping out this elderly person and it bothers me. It makes me wonder what we can do about it. The current generation, in my opinion, not very patient with the quickly disappearing World War Two Generation: Some would call this the “Greatest Generation”.  If that is true then I think we owe it to them to at least show them how to use a computer, how to email their families, friends, and loved ones.

            I remember the first time I showed my Father my laptop. It had a web cam and we talked to my best friend from across the country. My Father was born in 1919 and is still alive and cantankerous as ever. He lives in the Bayou down in Louisiana and with respect to him I did not expect his reaction: It blew his mind.

            “Well, son” he said puffing on the same old wooden pipe he’s had since the 1970’s “You always wanted to be Captain Kirk”. He was referring to my adoration of Star Trek and being able to say “Hello” to someone on “View-Screen” as he put it. I was glad that I had taught him some basic computing skills because that next year Hurricane Katrina destroyed south Louisiana.  I had no way of getting in touch with my parents and had no choice but to watch the news, in some hopeless hope that I would gain some knowledge of their location, If they had lived. All communications networks were down for weeks. I was in contact with my siblings, but they had not heard a thing either. I did not get word from anyone until one morning; six weeks after Katrina, I received an instant message that said:

            “WE R OK, W MOVED TO HOUMA LOISIANNA 3 WEEKS BEFORE STORM ALL WE GOT WAS WATERDAMAGE”

            Through my tears I wrote him back, thanking the heavens above, and not caring that my Dad did not know that writing in all caps on the internet is the equivalent of shouting, I was just glad my parents were alive. They sent me their new address and phone number. If I had not taught my parents about this “Star-Trek Gadget” as they called it, who knows when I would have found out.

            This is just one example from personal experience on how the lack of knowledge and lack of access to basic IT technology affects the poor, and the elderly. The computer skills that I have were learned through friends, and good old trial and error, of course I had access to a computer, which surprisingly in these United States, some people do not.

            As I stated before; there is no sign that Humanity’s Technological Evolution is going to come grinding to a halt anytime soon. It is one of the reasons why I chose to return to school after so many years absent: If you do not change, grow, and evolve: which I think is the nature of Humankind at its most finite essence; then you will be left behind, confused, baffled and bewildered as the world passes you by. The individual that this happens to will only have the same option that the dinosaurs had: Extinction, or since this is an essay on Technology a more appropriate term would be: Deletion.