The perils of modern technology

This is a guest post written by my husband. His name is Rabbi Aaron D. Michelson, but you can call him Saba. A lot of people do.

Somewhere I came across the idea that if two terms can be considered opposites then the existence of one of them implies the existence of the other even if only as the absence of the first one. In theology this led to many debates about the nature of evil with some saying that it has a real and palpable existence of its own and others saying that it is merely the absence of good, its opposite.

The same arguments could be held on the subject of intelligence/ignorance. Is ignorance a real force in its own right or is it merely the absence of intelligence. Many have experienced “creative” ignorance so concretely that they would argue for its reality. Similarly we may find that if there exists a class of an item that is called smart there is also a class that is stupid and the stupid class has an existence and a reality equal and opposite to the smart class.

Many of you have “smart” phones which are capable of all kinds of clever tricks and operations which can be helpful to you. ” Where,” you may ask, “are the stupid phones?” Until recently, I might have asked the same question had it occurred to me. This morning at 4:08 AM the answer was thrust upon me. and then for almost two hours it was periodically drilled into my eardrums.

In the past few days I have exchanged text messages with someone who is near and dear to me. At 4:08 AM and ff, that dear person’s stupid phone showed its true colors. Again and again it rang. Bleary eyed I tried to discern a message. None. Perhaps my dear one was in trouble. After two hours I sent a message. Dear one was well. Stupid phone had prevailed. No helpful advice; no cute games; no internet radio or even pictures that know which way is up. Just dumb ringing and if I failed to answer because I had fallen asleep momentarily beep beep beep to remind me that I had not answered the nonmessages that stupidphone had visited upon me.

Yes Virginia, there is a Stupid Phone and it is here among us.

On cell phones, facebook, skype and why you should book a tour to China for you and your grandchild

I have often thought of my life as somewhat unbelievable. The world has changed enormously from even the time when my children were teens. In those days the average person did not have a cell phone. Computers had text interfaces and so seeking information was possible, but photos and movies were not even considered a possibility.

I have come to know and cherish (yes, and sometimes curse) the new technologies. Cell phones have made it easier for people to meet, to decide on the basis of current conditions where and when to meet. Missing husbands can be found just by pressing the appropriate speed dial.

Facebook is a phenomenon that is amazing. I have found friends I’d lost touch with and relatives that I didn’t know existed. I can catch snippets of my friends’ and relatives’ lives without intruding. I can see their pictures the day they are taken, and all in the comfort of my home.

Blogs allow us to get to know people in an even deeper way. We can know what they are thinking, what they are doing, how they process their daily experiences, what they like to do, and what their dreams are. In fact, the internet, in some ways, is like having a big window through which you can watch the world go by.

But this morning, I felt I had entered some sort of new reality when I sat down to my computer, just before 8 a.m. and had a skype call (complete with video) from two of my grandsons who are currently visiting the other side of the family in Los Angeles. It was amazing to see them and talk to them and know that it they would soon be going to sleep while I was just starting my day. I could hear their younger siblings in the background. And best of all, it wasn’t costing anyone a penny! It’s the type of technology that my parents would have given anything to have.

It once again set me to thinking about the whole issue of how grandparents and grandchildren relate to one another. For me, having now been on vacation with a total of 7 grandchildren, it seems clear that spending leisure time together, unmediated by their parents, seems to forge the strongest and most affectionate ties. I feel now that I really know these children in a way I hadn’t known them before and we share now adventures and memories that are only ours. The better I get to know them, the more I appreciate them, and hopefully we are together creating memories that will last a lifetime. Try it, you’ll like it!