Monday, 05 May 2014
Crabby Old Lady Laments the Future...
...at least as The New York Times reports it.
In the past, predictions have usually usually appeared as science fiction fantasies of life 50 or a 100 years hence and it's always fun – and funny - when such prophecies are dredged up and compared to what really happened.
Nowadays, the next future arrives even before the current one has come to fruition so that a peek just ten years forward can be awe-inspiring (or terrifying, depending on your point of view).
That's what The New York Times did on Saturday in a gigantic infographic of “what far-off technology will be commonplace in a decade” based on the predictions of seven people the paper says are “driving this transformation” of technological change.
Here's a little piece of that graphic.
Let Crabby Old Lady say at the outset that the infographic, with its simplistic images and soundbite text, is enough for her to worry about where The Times newspaper itself is heading. Why didn't they write a traditional news story, Crabby wonders, with words and paragraphs and, oh you know, old-fashioned news virtues like context and perspective?
”My concern about the direction of technology is that providers of consumer tech goodies seem to be leading us away from using devices with keyboards.
“Since I use a computer to write...I don't like a future in which a tablet or a smartphone becomes the expected appliance and what I consider a 'real computer' becomes a rarity. I sure don't see myself communicating in videos.”
For a long time now, Crabby too has been concerned about disappearing text and, therefore, actual thought.
In addition to those faddish, facile infographics that pop up all over the web in place of writing, increasing numbers of news websites are posting video without providing a written version of the report.
Is Crabby Old Lady the last person who understands that in an era when virtually everyone complains of too much information to plow through, it is three or four or ten times faster to read a narrative than to watch a video?
Or, of greater concern, that the medium of video does not allow for detail and nuance and that even at their best, video reports are only as good as the reporter, and there aren't many good ones these days, especially online.
Harumph, says Crabby.
Among The Times' infographic predictions are, unfortunately, these:
“The computer mouse will be replaced. Think touch, swipe, rich hand gestures."
“What technology will seem antiquated in a decade? Email, computer keyboards, cash, handheld phones.”
"...people will wear computers in the form of contact lenses, bracelets or clothing and walk up to any wall and instantly have full access to all of your cloud data and services.”
Just how, as Jan asks, is anyone going to write anything without keyboards?
Crabby might settle (reluctantly) for voice-to-text (if they'd ever improve it enough to work as well as keyboards). But no, we've got texting on teeny cellphone screens so that spelling and grammar and – again – actual thought beyond “how r u” is already disappearing.
To be fair to The Times, there are a few intriguing predictions that Crabby wants to see earlier rather than later. Before she dies would be good:
“Personalized medicine. Imagine a unique drug that’s printed for you and your condition based on your individual gene sequencing.”
"Getting a top-end college education without going to a physical campus."
"Cars driven by computers instead of humans.”
That last one, if the cars are generally affordable, could permanently remove elders' understandable fear of giving up their car keys.
On the other hand, for some reason The Times lists this one under the header, The Era of Progress:
“Ubiquitous video recording and surveillance.”
And do you think The New York Times in this infographic edited by David Leonhardt (yes, Crabby Old Lady intended to call him out) really meant to place this prediction, too, under The Era of Progress:
”Women are only 25-percent of the tech industry. As it grows in stature and wealth, women risk losing their influence in our society.”
But it strikes Crabby that 24/7 surveillance and decreased influence of women are beside the point if people stop knowing how to write because if you cannot write, you cannot think and god knows our world needs some smart thinking.
Crabby is perfectly aware that every generation of elders believes that younger ones are going to hell in a handbasket and she is more than eager to learn that her fears for the future have been a misuse of her time.
She just hopes she dies before they take away her keyboard.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Butch, the Easter Chicken