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Becoming subservient to technology
dennis Wyatt web
Dennis Wyatt

After reaching the top of Yosemite Falls there is a narrow precarious series of steps carved out of granite to reach an overlook just below where Yosemite Creek starts its 2,425-foot plunge to the valley floor.

There are handrails in place on two sections — the first that prevents slipping and sliding down rocks to where the upper portion of the falls slams water into a granite perch 1,430 feet below on its journey to join the Merced River. The other section is on even narrower segment where the rail is anchored into the face of the granite to prevent slipping onto the granite shelf below where the overlook is. Two people can pass on the segments with extreme caution. If both are carrying backpacks it is wise for one to back up.

On Saturday as I was making my way down, a 20-something with a large backpack on the way up stopped to answer his smartphone. He stood there yakking away. After a minute of waiting — there were at least six hikers behind me — I said in a fairly loud and irritated voice, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

He threw me a dirty look and then proceeded to straddle the rail to allow others to pass as he continued to talk.

Four hours later on the way home to Manteca the three of us stopped at the Yosemite Lakes general store. Instead of making the cashier break three $20 bills I said I’d pay for everyone’s Vitaminwater. The clerk, upon hearing that, said I’d be surprised at the number of people who don’t use cash anymore adding someone that day had used an ATM for purchase of a 35 cent postcard and nothing else.

A year prior while hiking up from the Yosemite Valley floor toward Dewey Point I was stopped by a young couple asking if they were on the right trail to Mt. Hoffman. I told them they were way off given the Mt. Hoffman trailhead was off Highway 120 in the Yosemite high country. They replied I was wrong as the information they had just Googled on their smartphone indicated they could reach Mt. Hoffman from the valley floor. I replied that’s true if they hiked out over the north rim and not the south rim and were up to 50 mile of so round trip on foot.

Technology’s biggest fault is that we have used it to live in the moment.

Instant thrashing and trashing of people on social media aside, it has made many of us not think about others when we use it, not think about the cost to us and others when we use it willy nilly, and leads us to wait until the last possible second to seek critical information such as directions for where we are going.

Technology makes our lives easier but it can lead to mental and physical atrophy. How many of us can remember more than a few phone numbers? How many of us get wiped out if we walked to the corner store?

We are moving ever so closer to the point we may not be able to survive without technology as we find it ourselves unable to navigate through life using our wits, common sense, or literally standing on our own two feet.

There are now studies documenting i-Phone anxiety. Researchers have found people may get elevated pulse rates and heightened blood pressure to full scale panic attacks when they can’t find their smartphone or they see they have less than 20 percent battery life remaining with no way to charge their phone.

None of this is the fault of tech firms.

It’s either us becoming lazy or failing to pass on the basics so the next generation has a working concept of what is behind civilization. It’s akin to only teaching a math major how to use a device to do calculus without teaching them the basic tenets of the discipline. 

As for being lazy, rest assured back when we relied on horses for transportation that we didn’t forget to feed the horse, make sure it had water, and other things that kept them in working order such as horseshoes. If we didn’t we would be up the creek.

The early days of the automobile wasn’t much different as it was essential to make sure it was in working order and prepared for the road before you hopped behind the wheel. Today few of us even check the oil or inspect tires let alone do it on a daily basis. Advances in technology have lulled us into a sense of absolute security. 

We don’t check under the hood. We don’t research directions in advance. We don’t weigh the cost of how we pay for things. We don’t plan.  We don’t memorize basic information. We don’t think of others.

I get that smartphones, paying using an app, and all the wonderful technology that makes our lives easier are here to stay until they are replaced by technological advance we’ve never considered even in our wildest dreams.

What I don’t get is why many of us have become subservient to technology. It goes beyond the anxiety created when we can’t find our smartphone.

We are on the path of letting those who create technology literally control our lives and rendering us helpless if the technology fails or is unavailable.

Tech doesn’t enrich our lives to be free us from seemingly mundane mental and physical tasks as much as it makes us a captive of technology.

Keep that in mind the next time someone drives their car into a lake because their GPS told them to do so.