Technology giveth, technology taketh

Because of technology I can chat with my friends around the world just like that. No more sending letters that may take weeks to arrive. Digital photography revolutionized the way we take pictures. We snap them with our cell phones, attach them on emails, and voila, Aunt May in Chicago can see her nephew Jimmy blowing out the candles at his third birthday party in Atlanta just like that. Miss an important phone call? Not anymore. Cell phones changed all that. Geez, who doesn’t have one these days? ATMs spit out cash any time of the day or night assuming your account is active. Don’t feel like dragging yourself out of the house to shop for a new dress for that upcoming wedding? Not to worry. There’s a simple solution. Browse the internet, pay with a credit card and within a few days, a delivery service will knock on your door with your order. Want to renew a headache prescription? Easy peasy. Pick up the phone, punch in a few numbers, and a pharmacy assistant at a chain store will text you when your renewal is ready. Headed to the airport for a domestic flight? No need to waste paper by printing a boarding pass. Simply download it on your smart phone. If airport security can scan your phone, you’re in. How’s that for the modern age? Hungry? Want your order right away? Who the heck doesn’t? In some restaurants now you can order ahead on line and have it ready as soon as you arrive, assuming of course you pre-paid with a valid credit card. Technology has given us so much more like the internet, blogs, websites, advances in medicine, education and so much more. But there are drawbacks. Plenty of them. Robots, not immigrants are responsible for many job losses in the US. Factory floors in the 1960s were full of workers on the assembly line. Today, the factory floors are largely empty except for a few workers who make sure that robots work properly and the assembly line doesn’t get clogged. On-line shopping has become so popular that brick and mortar stores are seriously becoming an endangered species. Once proud giants like Macy’s are closing stores because of stiff competition from on-line merchants. Other retailers like Sears, J.C. Penney’s and even the chic Michael Kors have or will close stores. Payless shoe stores, Rue21 and the children’s store Gymboree filed for bankruptcy. Others teeter on the edge. Some malls continue to hang on while others are just a shell of what they once were with empty stores and half-filled parking lots. The book store industry is in a tizzy too. Competition from e-books started by the retail giant, Amazon, sealed the fate of the chain, Border’s Books and Music. Barnes and Noble like other retailers closed stores and doesn’t open new ones. Dozens of independent book stores closed down, unable to keep up with the competition from Amazon and cut-rate retailers like Wal-Mart. You can even buy a purebred puppy or kitten on line. To me, that’s absurd when there are dozens of perfectly healthy adoptable animals at the nearest animal shelter that need good homes. Even wars are fought with technology. Why order on-line when you can save a life at home? The world is changing around me at a pace that I cannot keep up with. Drones that kill and maim in foreign nations receive orders for their dirty work from military bases hundreds if not thousands of miles away. Will the day come when there are no more hard copies of newspapers? Will a shopping mall become a relic of the past? Will libraries be forced into obscurity because there will be no more print books? If that’s the way the world is headed, and there are signs it is, I hope I’m dead by then. At my age, there’s a good chance I might be. I do not want to live in a world without books. I love turning the page to an interesting novel, eager to get to the end. I enjoy a trip to the mall with friends, eating lunch in a café. It’s fun to watch their children romp around the play area or pick out books in Barnes and Noble. I cherish time spent at Changing Hands, our local independent bookstore, browsing through books, deciding which one I want to buy. I treat myself to a new book now and then. I may be one of the few people who rarely shops on-line. I have never ordered from Amazon.com. Even though I’m on a meager budget, I would rather buy local, even if I pay more. That’s just how I am. I don’t have a GPS in my car or on my phone. I hate listening to a cold, sterile voice barking out directions. I’d rather listen to an intelligent conversation on National Public Radio instead. I appreciate the advances in technology. In many ways, it’s been a blessing but at the same time it’s also been a curse. I hope for the sake of humanity technology doesn’t ever stop me or anyone else from being human. A robot doesn’t have a beating heart. If I ever end up in a nursing home, I surely don’t want a robot taking care of me. I’d rather be six feet under by then. Here’s to keep the human in humanity.

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