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‘Wonders’ of technology

To the editor:

The World Wide Web puts the vast stores of human understanding at our fingertips, anytime, and almost anyplace. I’m old enough to remember when a difficult question meant a trip to a university library and, then, a two to four week wait for an answer via “snail mail.” Given the time and effort required, you’d think pretty carefully about what you really wanted to find out before you formed a question.

These days, the ubiquitous tendency to “google” virtually any momentary thought may appear, on the surface, to have eliminated the need for that visit to the library or the need to consult someone with actual expertise or life experience.

So-called “smartphones,” ironically seldom actually used as telephones, provide the addicted with a powerful self-delusion of connectedness, involvement, and community while actually giving rise to self-affirming regional, racial, tribal, and generational bubbles. We clump together and marinate ourselves in the ideas of people who think and talk just like we do. Social media amplifies these corrosive clustering effects by encouraging within each group a general sense of snarky-ness and smugness. We lob epithets across the divides via memes, catch-phrases, and gotchas.

Passively embracing this “divide-and-conquer” mindset allows corporate, political, and media hucksters to surreptitiously manipulate what we buy, who we vote for, and what we are exposed to on our ever-present electronic devices.

Meanwhile, the Woke decry the deplorables, the Chosen Ones predict the ultimate demise of the rational, the flat Earthers worry about black helicopters in the night, the deer are hoping the government will confiscate our guns, and the rest of us are left wondering how we got here and how we’ll get out.

Maybe it’s time for us to ask why we think the things and do the things we do. Why are we so willing to dismiss the ideas and ways of others? Why are we so intolerant? We really do need to learn to equitably share this tiny planet with its paper-thin layer of life-giving atmosphere. I read that the handful of multi-billionaires who dominate the digital landscape are actually planning to build a settlement and colonize Mars so that they have a place to go when Earth becomes uninhabitable. If they’re going to Mars, I’ll stay here and take my chances. “Google that!” internet Titans.

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