Hi-tech. It's on everyone's lips. Yes, hi-tech lipstick does exist, but that's not what i'm talking about. Looking beyond that -- "hi-tech" is the fab fad of the decade, perhaps of the century. But how hi should hi-tech be?
For me, the answer is, it should be what's sensible and useful. Nearly everyone is prepared to accept something that's truly a help ... something that makes their lives easier, helps them do their jobs more effectively, maybe even makes their relationships work more smoothly. That's been my approach.
So I have a cell phone, but use it for actual phone calls. My phone will take pictures, it will text, it will hook up to GPS direction-finding for a price. I don't use those features; they're not useful to me. I have a camera for pictures, e-mail for messages, and am fully capable of interpreting a map to find where I need to go. In fact, most of the time, even my cell phone is either turned off or not on my person. Technological advances are fine if they serve our needs, but it doesn't make a lot of sense to me to adopt something -- usually more expensive and less WYSIWYG -- that really doesn't represent an improvement.
HDTV, for example - at the cost of replacing all our existing equipment, it provides a slightly clearer, but distorted, picture. Not worth the trouble but it's been shoved down our throats anyway.
I can learn things that I need... when I got into a job where spreadsheets were useful, I taught myself Excel. When I needed to prepare a brochure for a charitable organization, I learned to use Microsoft Publisher. I've given up on calling in to those India-based help lines for advice on computer problems because i usually find that I know more than their first-tier "tech support" staff.
But I like to keep a sense of proportion. Not everyone does. I have to chuckle to myself in meetings when I see people taking notes on a laptop or tablet computer. Some are very effective at it, but most people can't keyboard nearly as fast as they need to for this task. Besides, computers are obtrusive in a meeting, and I'd argue that in focusing on the computer, you're missing the sense of what's being said.
I belong to a small charitable organization. We keep attendance at our meetings with a simple check-off sheet so that those who didn't come can be informed of what happened. Last week, one member was enthusiastically promoting a system that would electronically scan members' name tags and record their attendance. All we needed was to buy the scanner, equipment to put bar codes on the name tags, a thumb drive for the data, and a computer in which to enter it. But we have only about 50 members -- the hi-tech "solution" in this case is slower, more costly and more troublesome than a simple, old-fashioned piece of paper.
Tonight's news brings another example of bone-headed tech density. Sarah Palin. In general, or course, she defines the term; but also specifically, in the trial of the kid who tapped into her e-mail accounts a while back and embarrassed her (as if she weren't embarrassed enough). Palin claims that this guy's intrusion destroyed her "only means of contct" with her children. Whoa! Poor baby! Don't they have telephones in Alaska? Well, maybe not, but I'm sure if they don't, they must have a system of communication by some code of rifle shots.
In short, there are various approaches to the adoption of technology. Most of us need to remain levelheaded and resist the blandishments of the overeager. Still, the "early adopters" have a role -- they forge ahead because of their fascination with the technology, without reference to its direct applications. They can help sort out the bugs, and eventually, the technology that seems laughably unnecessary now may develop into something that makes sense.