I am scared. Terrified actually. I believe it all started when I sat down to balance my checkbook (a depressing task as it is) and realized that I could not subtract without my calculator. It dawned on me, just days later, that although I have kept an online connection with a close friend, I have not seen her in several years.

Paul Wong

Technology is running circles around society; lapping us as we struggle to keep up and hold on. As soon as we can both afford and grasp the idea of some invention, a “new and improved” one is on the market and selling out. The power of computers is immense these days and I am so scared that our lives are succumbing to the use of them, thus swallowing up the importance of the human mind and personal interaction with others.

I am not going to sit here and lecture you all about how computers are taking over the world or that the only way society will survive is if we go back to the basics, wear togas, and eat with our fingers. I am not going to ban technology from my life or revolt against production, for then I would be hypocritical (I am sitting in front of a laptop at this moment!). It is just that I am becoming conscious of the fact that as we give in to technological innovation, we give up on traditional human nature. With the whirlwind of palm pilots, videophones and virtual reality these days, I just want to be able to keep it all in check.

I love people. I love interaction with people and learning about different people. I appreciate so much the individuality of people, the uniqueness that each face and each voice carries, and the ways in which each person I come across in life influences a piece of me in some way. I want so much to keep in touch and to maintain connections with the special people in my life.

E-mail has come through incredibly and Instant Messenger is my savior, but nothing beats a hand-written letter or a great conversation over coffee. Computer keys have replaced the pen, while written words have replaced the face and voice. I do not want to lose my eyesight to the strain of staring at this screen all day. I do not want to lose my intellect from letting a machine do all the work for me. I especially do not want to lose my delight in people and what they bring to me when I am in direct contact with them. That is too special to me, too much a part of my everyday life.

And then there is this online dating phenomenon! I am fine with the notion that chat rooms and dating websites can help people connect. More power to you if it takes anonymity and typed words to establish heart-felt bonds. But virtual-reality dating! What is that? The wave of the future is swelling in romance’s ocean and it is about to drown out any traditional concept of relationships that ever existed! I read recently that one can spend a glorious night on the town or share a romantic dinner for two, while sitting in front of a computer and finishing off a tub of ice cream!

We will be able to soak in the scenery of a tavern in Little Italy, engage in a stimulating conversation about the latest invention of virtual exercising, and explore the depths of another’s heart, without having to leave the house!

As much as I love lounging around in pajamas, not having to impress anyone, and not having to spend money, I believe this is absurd! What is next? Virtual sex? I will not even attempt to illustrate that!

As I take a deep breath, count to 10, and review the abundance of thought that I have just managed to voice, I realize that the rise of technology and the overflow of imagination that lay at its roots are classic to these times and those of our future.

Technology is life and life is thus becoming that much more interesting. I just want to make sure that before we get caught in the under toe of this craziness, we will step back and recognize what is real and what is valuable in life. Always value the potential of the human mind. Always cherish the human touch, voice and face. And never let a computer replace a friend or a lover. I just don’t think it will ever do the trick!

– Rena Greifinger can be reached at rgreifin@umich.edu.

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