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Technology: access or excess


The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.” ~Warren G. Bennis

Your average 25-year-old does not remember T.V. dinners, or a time when there wasn’t a microwave oven. Their world began after rotary dial telephones and record players. Today, DJs make mixed tapes and are hired to supply music to parties and night clubs, not host radio programs–now those DJs are called radio personalities.
These young adults never wore cloth diapers and milk was never delivered to their doors. Gas stations have always been self-serve. And, in most of their lifetimes, the presidents of the United States have either been a Bush or a Clinton.
Your average 50-year-old has probably never flushed a toilet by pulling a chain extended from a ceiling. They have never routinely traveled by cable cars, used a washing machine with wringers or had a drink at a speakeasy. Ladies have always worn pantyhose and never owned a garter belt, much less stockings with seams. They never gathered around a radio to listen to narrated stories laced with sound effects. But, they did listen to the ball games on transistor radios.
Now, consider the average 10-year-old. They do not know a world without cell phones or ATMs (Automated Teller Machine). Skateboards are no longer simply pieces of lumber with ball bearing wheels attached. Helmets have always been required for bike riding. While their parents may have been punished for sneaking off to the arcades, they play their games on home computers or hand held gaming devices (Nintendo, Wii, Playstation).

‘You’ve got mail!’
In the early ’90s, AOL (America Online) introduced interactive chat rooms and social networking took off. The new technology was exciting and fast paced. AOL’s main competitor was Compuserve, and each had their own loyal fan base. AOL worked better on MACs and Compuserve was the choice of most IBM (PC) users. Eventually Compuserve disappeared.
The initial cost to use the dial-up modem service was several dollars per minute, making online addictions either rare or pricey.
As the technology grew and the cost to users became more affordable, online predators creeped into the open chat rooms and the internet frontier entered a new age of criminal activity which would soon also encompass identity theft.
Modern technology can be the ultimate “big brother,” as global strangers electronically access digital maps of our daily lives.

The birth of Google
In the mid ’90s, two Stanford University Ph.D. students, Larry Page and Sergy Brin began a research project to create a search engine (seeks information on the Worldwide Web) that analyzed the relationships between Web sites and ranked results according to the number of times that the search engine appeared on a page.
They nicknamed their search engine “BackRub” because it checked backlinks to estimate a site’s importance.
The partners originally used the Stanford University Web site: They registered the domain on Sept. 15, 1997. And, at a friend’s garage in Menlo Park, California, on Sept. 7, 1998, they formed Google, Inc.
Google’s simple design and ease of use quickly attracted a loyal following.
The word “google” was added to the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006 as a verb, meaning “to use the Google search engine to obtain information on the Internet.”
Since 2001, Google has acquired several small start-up companies including Pyra Labs (PL), the creators of Blogger, a weblog–personal journaling–publishing platform, first launched in 1999. PL was originally formed by Evan Williams ( In early 2006, Google added online word processing, documents and spreadsheets.
In late 2006, Google bought online video site YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock.
Most of Google’s revenue is derived from advertising programs. For the 2006 fiscal year, the company reported over $10 billion in total advertising revenues
Google also developed an interactive mapping program, “Google Earth,” powered by satellite and aerial imagery that covers nearly every corner of the planet. The zoomed-in images are so detailed and accurate, that users have identified relatives and friends standing on their front lawns. However, there are privacy and security issues. Streets, villages, and even military bases can be pulled up in active war torn areas across the globe. Luckily, the images are not updated often, and can be up to two years old.

Is technology invasive?
Imagine that a once awkwardly quiet elevator ride may now have a digital screen that provides quick commercials as you are wisked between floors. One of most opportune times for companies to pitch their products, especially in Los Angeles traffic, have been at red lights or stop signs, where the driver and passengers are bombarded with bill boards and bench advertising. Now, the brightly lit digital billboards continuously flash their messages, every 4-5 seconds. And, digital advertising screens greet consumers at the ATMs, grocery check out lines, produce and meat sections of the market, gas pumps and even public restroom stalls.

Information overload
We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology. ~Carl Sagan

Information overload is like cramming for a final exam – everyday. One search can lead to more searches, that lead to even more time on the computer. Computer minutes often feel like dog years. What was once thought to be a time saver, can easily be a time sucking vacuum.

Information and “smart mobs”
About six years ago, Howard Rheingold, author of Virtual Reality, The Virtual Community and Smart Mobile, the Next Revolution predicted “smart mobs,” described as “people who are able to act in concert, even if they don’t know each other.”
His words are clearly evidenced in the current presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama, who is pioneering one of the most innovative internet grassroots outreach efforts. Speaking to young voters in their language (interactive web site), with immediate information (SMS – short message service, text messaging), Obama has taken his support and fundraising to new heights.
After Hurricane Katrina, campus officials at Xavier University in New Orleans realized that the quickest way to alert students of emergencies and provide vital information was via text messaging.
Fast paced communication also brings its own etiquette and language, or lack thereof. A quick e-mail can appear to be rude or a cryptic text message can appear bullying, flirting or simply undecipherable.

Beauty goes tech
As baby boomers age, they want to look as good as they feel. Over the past 20 years, there have been advancements in hair restoration, line fillers (Botox), teeth whiteners, teeth implants (replacing dentures) and spray tans (as an alternative to harmful sun damage).
“Today, high tech tools are popular, from revolutionary hair removal systems to professional grade skincare brushes that reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. There are also portable, cordless anti-aging kits that help repair skin texture, color and tone, and a heat-enabled blemish clearing skincare tool for mild to moderate acne. New at-home gadgets are on the rise and continue to be introduced,” said Shannon Mitchell, color specialist, Sephora in Riverside, Calif. “Technologically advanced gadgets are effective and efficient, delivering speedy and noticeable results.”
With the advances in high definition (HD) television, film and personal cameras, facial flaws are unforgiving. “High definition makeup is popular today. ‘HD’ is a high definition complexion line that includes powders, primers, and foundations. Products are oil-free, provide medium to full-coverage, and conceal skin imperfections flawlessly while remaining invisible on-screen and in real life. Another cutting edge company, Make Up For Ever, offers a number of HD products with high performance formulas,” said Mitchell.
From sponge curlers to hot rollers, from the hot comb to the flat iron, the quickest way with the best results have always been the goal.

Current technologies, still developing
Space – more unmanned space craft, burial in space, paid passenger trips (Richard Branson).
Cloning – advances have been made in human cloning. Animal cloning is possible, including pet cloning which costs about $50,000.
DNA – discoveries have provided familial links to ancestors, solved crimes, and identified genetic markers in disease.
Medicine – more robotic and computer diagnosing advancements. Improved technology to replace lost limbs or failed body parts. Cures for diseases.
GPS (global positioning system) – this device, which can be as small as a grain of rice, can locate an address, find a missing pet, retrieve a stolen car, locate a lost person and even indentify the best place for a fisherman to drop his line.

Technology trends
Future trends in technology will be simplistic. Our cell phones may be able to do everything from solving complicated algebraic equations to locating the latest Yugoslavian indie-rock group. But, do we want all the extras? It seems as if the pendulum that swung to “excess” is falling back toward moderation.
Speech recognition, iris identification and even fingerprint scans may secure our identify on the internet, ATMs and cell phones.
Escalating fuel prices have forced drivers to seek energy efficient vehicles which are simpler in design and operation. Sales of the mega SUVs with all of the luxury extras have dramatically dropped. And the simple Prius, at $22,000 (consistently out of stock), has proved to be an unexpected auto competitor and a gold mine for Toyota.
For more than a decade, home offices have flourished with telecommuting replacing the desk shackled worker. This has been a blessing in Southern California, where weekly commutes can easily top 10 hours per week, due to distance or overcrowded freeways. That’s 10 unproductive hours.
As the farmlands of America shrink, hydroponic gardening (plants grown in water) and vertical gardening will flourish.
In the future, traditional cemetery space may be viewed as prime real estate, subject to the same overcrowded conditions of the living. We may be forced to rethink how we honor the deceased.
Visits to the doctor may occur away from the physician’s office. A simple swab of saliva may be the key to diagnosing a wide range of illnesses and disease.
Future technology will find new ways to fix old mistakes. In those areas of excess or where natural resources are near depletion, technology will balance, repair and advance at the same time.
How we choose to spend our time, those precious minutes, is still a personal decision that only a human can make… or so we think.