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Karl Giberson

THE SCIENCE PAGES: Technology from A to Z

In Visions of Technology, Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young) tells this story:

I once went down to Neil's ranch, and he rowed me out to the middle of the lake. Then he waved at someone invisible, and music started to play from the countryside. I realized Neil had his house wired as the left speaker and his barn wired as the right speaker. And from the shore Elliot Mazer, his engineer, shouted, "How is it?" And Neil shouted back, "More barn!"

I love technology; I love my home theater system with its huge subwoofer; I love my 200 cd megachanger (Bruce Hornsby is singing in the background); I love my computer and all the cool stuff that comes over the Internet (excuse me for a moment while I click on a bookmark and see how my technology stocks are doing—good, they are up again); I love the morning ritual of checking my e-mail—so much more fun than the old trip to the rusting, passive, mute mailbox. Ditto for microwave ovens, washing machines, bread makers, and even my cantankerous lawn mower. And I love to play with my new laser pointer. When I reflect a bit, I am also grateful for the medical technology that has saved the lives and lessened the suffering of family members, including my children. I have no interest in a world without technology. More barn, as Neil Young would say.

I also hate technology. I hate the way our lives require electricity to run so that we become strangely comatose when the power grid goes down, standing around in hallways with nothing to do except wait for the Restoration; I hate the endless upgrading of computers, software, phone services, and video games that has become a normal part of life at the end of the twentieth century; I hate the way everything, including my car, has a ten-cent electronic part in it now that renders it unusable when the ten-cent part breaks. I worry about the strange new mutant English spawned by e-mail and "AOL Instant Messages." I hate the way my daughter talks on the phone all the time, ...

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