Technology is going to be the end of civilization — and I’m not referring to weapons.
“You know, I’m terrible at directions,” says the sales associate behind the register.
He is scanning the barcode on a metal wall hanging of a compass.
“My dad keeps telling me I need to learn how to tell my direction but I just can’t,” he finishes, the register beeping in the background.
I pause. I’ve heard this before. It worries me. I wonder about the day technology all goes offline. We’ll be doomed.
“You know,” I say “there are only four directions. North, south, east and west.”
Silence. I’m not making any headway.
“Here is a helpful hint. The sun comes up in the east and sets in the west. Figure that out and you can pretty much go from there.”
The young man smiles.
“Yeah, thanks,” he says handing me a paper receipt.
I really do worry about the day all these networks and all the electronics go down. I’m not a doomsdayer, but at some point in life, we are all going to find ourselves dependent on our wits and ability to think on our feet. And not getting a signal is not going to be an excuse.
There is something to be said for a Kindle that never runs out of battery life. Yes, I mean a physical book with paper pages and if recycled, will decompose into the dirt.
The other day my son called to tell me about a car sold in Japan with roll-up windows. He was honestly intrigued at the simplicity. And I guess for anyone born in a world where a cell phone quickly became an extension of your arm, this would sound fascinatingly and refreshingly simple.
The next battle may very well happen on a field of ones and zeros — software code, that is. Every nation currently contains groups who work feverishly to crack into the digital vaults of whatever adversary — or ally — they wish. Why blast missiles from submarines when, with a well-placed change in a code, someone can take out a strategic electrical grid or create false data?
Which goes back to the day we potentially are looking at our phones or other computer sources and having to step back and ask whether what they are saying passes the sniff test.
Will we have the critical mental skills to operate outside of a world absent of computer-generated information? Can we read the clouds and tell what is going on with an approaching storm? Or, can we figure out how to troubleshoot when the vehicle we are driving suddenly stops on the side of the road?
I am not a survivalist by any stretch of the imagination. If the dinosaurs reappeared on Earth today, I might be one of the first snacks they nosh on.
But I can promise you if I ran across a secret notepaper note telling me to head west for safety, I am confident I would successfully find my way.