Too much technology? Featured

6:52am EDT November 4, 2003
Call me old-fashioned, but aren't all of our technological gizmos getting out of control? Now, I'm no technophobe. In fact, I am thankful for many of the technologies that have made my business and personal life simpler.

But at the risk of sounding tragically unhip, I draw the line at technologies that encourage us to stop using our brains. Take, for example, the increasingly ubiquitous global positioning systems (GPS). My husband and some colleagues recently traveled for business in a rented car that had one of these gadgets. They loved it.

All you have to do is enter the address you are traveling to, and with tonal and voice signals, the GPS gets you to your destination. If you miss a turn, it automatically recalculates your route and gets you back on track.

Sounds great. But it triggered a few alarms in my head.

First of all -- and this just may be that I'm overly cautious -- there's something a little unsettling about getting into a car in a strange city and relying exclusively on a computer for navigation.

My bigger concern is probably shared by many of you: Don't we have enough distractions when driving? According to my husband, the display changes constantly as you drive so the driver can see "where he is." (This, apparently, is an improvement over looking out the window.)

I'm afraid the driver will focus so much on the display screen he'll have an accident. I have visions of some road warrior shouldering a cell phone to his ear and looking up a contact on his Palm Pilot, all the while keeping an eye on the GPS.

These systems are just the latest in a never-ending parade of technological "improvements" to our lives. There are home computer systems you can program to automatically start your coffee maker, open your garage door, turn on your lights and control your heating and cooling systems.

I can see some advantages to these arrangements, but mostly it makes me wonder: Are we trying to enrich our lives or are we just getting lazy?

And let's face it -- computers are not without "bugs." They're also subject to viruses and worms. Maybe I've seen too many technology-run-amok movies like "Electric Dreams," "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "The Matrix," but I still prefer knowing in my own brain where I am, where I am going and who turned out the lights.