I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Our technological age

Mt. Baker peeking through 
We've had a week of clear skies and unusually cold temperatures, and it was still beautiful when we went on our Thursday hike last week. I took this picture with my cellphone, of course. I've stopped even bothering with my camera, since my phone does everything I need. I'm not a professional photographer and only need something that will help me chronicle life events and look halfway decent.

It's only been ten years since the iPhone was first released, with a camera that now seems rather dated. The new iPhone 7 is in my near future, but I'm still trying to recover from all the expenses of last month before I tackle a new purchase. It truly is amazing how attached I've become to that phone. It is with me constantly, helping me to count my steps, or get an answer to any question with the entire storehouse of human history at my fingertips. I can even use it to make phone calls occasionally, but these days that seems to be the least important aspect of my smartphone. Let's face it, I'm hooked. And ten years ago I thought it was great just to have a little tiny flip phone!

Technology marches on, and now the whole world has them. I just looked up the statistic of how many people worldwide use smartphones, and the number is now almost 3 billion! When I was young there weren't even that many people. Now we have 7.4 billion people on this tiny planet, and every day brings more and more. Is there a tipping point? Of course there is, but what will be tipped into? I don't even want to think of it.

Yesterday I went to see a documentary at the local movie theater that I enjoyed immensely: The Eagle Huntress, about a young teenager in Outer Mongolia who wanted to take up the activity of her father and grandfather, but women had never done it before. I wrote about it here. The Kazakh Nomads of Mongolia live in yurts during the summer months and move into walled structures during the winter, when it gets down as low as -40°F. I found this pictorial taken from a photographic expedition in 2015, and I am reminded that not every place on this beautiful planet is connected to the wider world. And I'm grateful for that, since the rest of us are so inundated every day with information that it has become rather overwhelming to try to keep up.

We who live in the developed world are so accustomed to the way we live that it's hard to even imagine life without electricity, roads, laptops, and the internet. This very minute, I am writing to a group of people whom I will never meet who have become dear friends, and this is because of the internet. I've been writing blogs since 2009, which doesn't seem that long ago, but how very much of my life has been altered through technology. I have a hard time thinking about what it was like before. My little nieces have never known a life where they didn't have an iPad that connects them to the rest of the world. It's a little bit mind-boggling.

I am a fan of dystopian novels written about a post-apocalyptic world, because they cause me to look around and actually see my world with different eyes. Margaret Atwood is a favorite author of this type of work; I remember reading The Handmaid's Tale back in 1985 and was hooked on her writing then. I think I've read all of her work except for her latest book. She's written several more of these kinds of books, all of them fascinating, some more gripping than others. She is just a few years older than me, and she shows no signs of slowing down.

None of us can see the future, but we certainly know plenty about the present moment, and we can only imagine what our lives will be like a decade from now. When I think back about how much has changed in the last one, it makes me grateful for the world of today. It does feel, though, a bit like standing on a precipice and looking down at vistas shrouded in fog, wondering when the air clears just what I will see. I am filled with gratitude for all my blessings, not the least of which is this laptop that connects me to you. It's been a wonderful journey so far, and I am glad to know that, whatever happens, I am not alone and will not have to face an uncertain future without help. That is true for all of us. Remember this in the days and weeks ahead.

I found this quote from Margaret Atwood:  "Every aspect of human technology has a dark side, including the bow and arrow." So yes, it's possible that when the fog clears, we'll see things that we couldn't even imagine. I am staying positive, because I can choose my response to whatever comes into my world, even if I cannot change much more than that. So, for as long as I have this venue and you, my dear friends, to share it with, how bad can things get? (No, don't answer that; it's just a rhetorical question.)

And now, it's time for me to get out of bed and start my day. I know that the coffee shop has a latte with my name on it, and that my friends are probably already there. I get a massage today and might go see another movie, but then again, maybe not. I'm due for a trip to the library to return some books and pick up some new ones. Please, dear friends, remember that we are gifts to those around us, and stay positive and loving in the face of uncertainty. Be well until we meet again next week.


Anonymous said...

I don't own a smart phone, but I do own a flip phone (to be used in the car) and a landline.

Linda Reeder said...

Thank you for these words, "we are gifts to those around us". I need to believe that and remember it today. I am not feeling well and I am hosting my grandson's birthday dinner here later today. I will try very hard to be a "gift".
The photos of Mongolia are wonderful!
I love my smart phone too, but the camera of the iPhone 5c, which we still have, is not that great. It is handy though, since I always have it with me.
There is an elephant in the room, and he keeps raising his trumph - er, trunk. Yes, there will be reasons to TRY to stay positive in the weeks and months to come. At least I have control over my own daily life, or at least as much as anyone has.

Marie Smith said...

Technology has changed our world but like everything it can be a fouble edged sword. It has certainly broadened my world and led me to your blogs which I enjoy! You have been a gift to me. Thank you, Jan.

Sandi said...

Hello there, DJan! As I sit here, forced by discomfort to ice my knee after my required PT exercises, I am glad I chose to check into a few blogs. Yours was first up, and I'm glad it was. Oh, the amazing technology we have, that we would never have imagined just a short generation ago. I've been researching and building my family tree this past week. Technology is much appreciated and I'm learning a lot as I decipher someone else's chicken scratches on census forms the past 80 years or so.
Stay positive!
Love and hugs to you, Sandi

Arkansas Patti said...

Technology does fascinate me but so far I have not found a need for the latest phone. Not having cell service where I live is a big factor. I am still a flip phone user for travel--well actually upgraded to the flip this past year. Whee. My last phone looked like a pager:))
Yes, the Internet has opened our worlds marvelously and for that I am so grateful. How else would we be able to drop in on virtual friends from around the world at will? It has my vote.

Red said...

Can you believe it that I've never read a Margaret Atwood story? You make me feel guilty enough to get one and read it. After all Atwood is Canadian!

The Furry Gnome said...

I've never read her books (maybe I should have), but we met her on a Canadian adventure cruise. Very smart and intellectual, but down-home and friendly at the same time.

Elephant's Child said...

I do love her work. Technology definitely is a double-edged sword, but recognising that puts a sheath on the blade to some extent.
Take care, and enjoy your week.

Mary said...

I just signed up for your blog and I can tell I'm going to enjoy it. I love blogs and have even thought of doing one myself...probably won't though. I still have a flip phone too but will admit to being addicted to my iPad. I don't even use a PC anymore. And yes technology can be two sided, but then again, so is life itself. It's the ying and yang of it all. I will check out Margaret Atwood too. I look forward to more of your blog

Linda Myers said...

I guess it's time for me to read Margaret Atwood, huh?

Gigi said...

Technology is wonderful - it's the bad apples that use it for evil that disturbs me.

Your mention of The Handmaid's Tale reminded me I'd written a post about it sometime ago - I had to go back and look - I wrote about it because there was talk of banning it at a local school district. I can't remember how that was resolved. I hope it wasn't banned as it's a great book.

As for the coming days and months - I'm with you. Staying positive and doing what we can for those around us is the only way forward.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I still have a landline and a machine that answers for me! I find phones to be very distracting and they make me cranky. I only answer it when Far Guy is away from the house!
I saw that Movie a long time ago about The Handmaiden and was not impressed...but then I have weird tastes.
I hope you have a wonderful week! :)

Glenda Beall said...

My husband was a tech guy and loved everything about communication. He had one of the first Blackberrys and one of the first smart phones, but I am still using a flip phone. I am so happy to see how many of your readers are like me, not wanting to be so dependent on a phone. I see the wonders of it and I know they are great for many things, but I am not sold on it yet.
your life seems to be comfortable as is mine now. I try not to think of what the future might bring. While I am in the midst of downsizing, I have narrowed my gaze to what is right here, what is part of me and not of the world. Love your post and thanks for stopping by my blogs.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I would have to say that my ability to access info fast played a big role when I was told I had cancer. I was able to research fast to make informed decisions on treatment options. And after the surgery While a bit house bound I found out how to blog. That too was a life changing skill for I could write and be heard if but by a few. Thanks for your support. And like you I love my smart phone as does Buddy enjoy his. I try hard to keep hubby connected and challenged but it is becoming hard for him . Positive is good.

C-ingspots said...

Thank you so much for your kind comment on my last post. It means a lot to me.

I love my technology too, but I'm not very good with a lot of it. I do have troubles...but, love to have access to info and the ability to take pics on the fly. And texting is fun. What I dislike is how so many people stare at their phones and never look up, never make eye contact or see the world. It irritates me to no end, and I'd like to slap their phones out of their hands. :) But who am I to say where their attention should be? *sigh* I'm showing my lack of patience again, aren't I?

However differently we may see things politically, we are similar in many things that are of more importance. If nothing else, things should be interesting. And like you said, we can remain positive and choose to treat those we have contact with, with kindness and respect. Have a wonderful week - are you having snow? We've had our 4th snow storm of the season and got about 4" and the world looks like a Christmas card! So incredibly beautiful! And so cold...

Deb Shucka said...

We just saw Hidden Figures yesterday, and this post fit right in with all the technological (and cultural changes) it highlighted. I think that no matter how much technology we have, and no matter how advanced our world becomes, it's still the relationships between people where the juicy stuff happens. If we use technology in the service of that, all the better. As always, your words make me think, and make me glad to be human.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Before I forget I’ve got to say your new profile picture is excellent. You look younger than in your last profile pic. :-) Well, you have given us another fine reflection on technology and how it is changing our world. I appreciated very much the link to the photos taken during the 2015 Expedition to Western Mongolia. Aren’t those photos amazing? And yes, it is great to see there are still places on the planet where one can escape from technology. As for those of us in this country, I feel lucky to be among the seniors who have been able to move forward with, and enjoy the new age of virtual communications. I also feel lucky to be into the blogosphere where I’ve found interesting blogs like Eye on the Edge. Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to be retired without using the internet at all. But I try to keep those moments to a minimum since the alternatives seem far less interesting! Thanks, DJan, as always for another fine Eye on the Edge.

Stephanie Faris said...

It's amazing to me how MUCH I use my phone for now. It's a camera, I listen to podcasts and audiobooks on it, sometimes I read books, I track how many steps I walk every day to lose weight (with a Fitbit, too), and of course I check email and Facebook and all that, too. I still have the iPhone 6. I don't think I'm going for the 7 even though my phone is now 2 years old. The battery drains faster than before, but I have one of those portable chargers for when I'm away from home.