Taylor: Those ubiquitous devices

By Bill Taylor

It seems to me that once in a while I find that I have made a good or possibly a “smart” decision even if I didn’t realize I was doing so at the time. One such occurred some years ago when I was returning from visiting our daughter in Galion, Ohio. I had two routes to choose from.

One was taking US Route 42 through Cardington and Delaware on my way to Greene county: the second was to take State Route 309 to US Route 23 thereby avoiding driving through both Cardington and Delaware. I chose to take the latter even though it was a few miles longer. The next day I found out a tornado had ripped through Cardington and I would have driven right into it. See how “smart” I was – even if I didn’t know it at the time?

Okay, so what suggests I may have made another of these “smart” choices?

Several weeks ago I noted that neither my Sweetheart-for-Life nor I have a “smart” phone. I wrote, “We have no problem with folks who rely so heavily ontheir smart phones as critical to their every day activities, but we choose not to allow these electronic gadgets to complicate our daily lives.”

I also noted, “… a guy we know very well was in a panic because he had misplaced his smart phone. He told us something like,’My whole life is in that phone. I can’t do anything without it.’ … Kinda scary when someone’s life is so bound up in a controlling device.”

Guess what? Studies indicate we may be making a smart choice in shunning those ubiquitous devices. (“Ubiquitous “ is a three dollar word that means “They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere!” )

Yep, one of these definitive reports, “How Smart Phones Hijack Our Minds” by Nicholas Carr (WSJ 10/07/17) cites a number of scientific studies that support the argument, “… as we grow more dependent on [these devices] our intellects weaken” (Carr, op. cit,). Dr Adrian Ward, of the University of Texas at Austin, concluded in an article in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, “… integration of smart phones into daily life appears to cause a ‘brain drain’ that can diminish such vital skills as learning, logical reasoning, abstract thought, problem solving, and creativity.” How about them apples?

Mr Carr cites an article in Scientific American that states, “The advent of the information age seems to have created a generation of people who feel they know more than ever before even though they may know even less about the world about them” because of their reliance on their devices.

Furthermore, this concept helps explain why half-truths, slanted reporting, and outright lies are so successfully spread throughout today’s gullible society. Those who boast they get all the information they need about the world solely from their smart phones and computers are apparently most susceptible to losing the capability to analyze and convert data into information and information into knowledge.

You know, these assessments are not limited to the adult population. A report by Markham Heid, et al, documents growing concern about the effect of smart phones on younger people including surging teen depression and suicides.

Suggested remedies include considering replacing youngsters’ smart phones with flip-top phones without data plans. This would provide communications, including texting, but would limit access to social media to at-home computers and tablets. Kinda like Grandma and Grandpa Taylor, huh?

I find this “new” information kinda interesting. You see, back when I was teaching engineering type stuff in the classroom or mentoring young engineers on the job I was faced with their nearly total dependence on their programmable calculators. I tried to explain that these devices were not “intelligent”, but were rather “stupid” in that they relied on the human intellect to do the engineering problem solving and then to program them to do the job of number crunching.

“Garbage in, garbage out” was a meaningful phrase – if the input was faulty or incorrect, the output would also be faulty or incorrect regardless of the speed or accuracy afforded by the device. I suggested they had to to decide who was “in charge” – were they or were their devices.

Several years ago a story making the rounds was about how the world’s computer scientists managed to link all the super computers together and, as the first inquiry, asked, “Is there a god?” After a while the answer came back, “There is now!” Kinda makes a body wonder if this story was a joke or a prophesy. At least that’s h ow it seems to me.


By Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at solie1@juno.com.

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at solie1@juno.com.