Phones, Drones and Automobiles

A summary of trends from the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that I read in USA Today identified the very issues I planned to blog about so I thought I’d share some of them here. Trend Five is “Don’t Ever Lose Your Smartphone” because so much other tech is tethered to it. Trend Three is “Drones Are Kind of a Big Deal” because like it or not flying robots are here to stay. And Trend One is “Cars Drive You” because self-driving cars are moving ever closer to reality.

In a play off the popular holiday movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” I am titling this post “Phones, Drones and Automobiles.” Each of these technologies offers not only a promising upside but also a pernicious downside that we need to reckon with before we all plunge headlong into using them without exercising due diligence. Some personal exposure to the downside of each of these technologies has caused me to pause and reflect about their respective uses.

I must admit that I love my smartphone but thoughtless use by people so addicted to the device’s charms that they can’t keep themselves from abusing it is downright scary. From distracted driving to sexting selfies, many people apparently think they are the center of the cosmos and act accordingly. For example, selfish people have so spoiled the theatre experience for my wife and I that we have all but quit going to movies and other public gatherings. Even church has become a chore.

As for drones, Linda and I encountered one at, of all places, the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin, the site of some of the Civil War’s bloodiest fighting. The event featured a grand illumination of 10,000 lights to remember the fallen and yet hovering overhead during much of the evening was, you guessed it, an annoyingly buzzing drone. It was ostensibly there to document the event but it had the effect of dampening the experience for us.

And when it comes to self-driving cars, I can’t help thinking of the law of unintended consequences and the resulting chaos that such vehicles are likely to cause on our roadways. Personally, I am hoping that they receive as unwelcome a reception as Google glasses and Segway transporters, both of which may have been promising in theory but unpopular in reality. Technology is only as intelligent as its users and unless we can harness our humanity to serve the greater good it is an exercise in futility.