Copyright 2007 – Stephen Redgwell
When I was in school, we were told that successful people had cottages, big cars and lots of disposable income. They enjoyed more leisure time than the ordinary working man. The well‑to‑do had all this because they took advantage of modern inventions like transistors and other solid state creations of the space age. To be successful, you used the tools of emerging technology.
Back in the dark ages of the 1960s, the most sophisticated technical marvel was the beeper ‑ sometimes referred to as a pager. It did not talk or display data on an LCD screen. It only beeped, which meant that the owner had to phone their operating service for an incoming message. Although not reserved strictly for the rich, doctors probably used them more than anyone else. These simple electronic boxes were thought to be a wonderful advance. They allowed the wearer an increased measure of freedom. No longer tied to the house, users could shop, golf or just sit on the patio without fear of missing an important call.
Sometime in the 1980s, I think that society’s upper caste realized that these devices ‑ along with other new technologies like cellphones ‑ were actually counterproductive to their relaxation. They needed to pass that burden down to the ones that were making them rich ‑ namely us, the worker bees. The reason was simple: we couldn’t escape work. In effect, we’d be tied to a giant leash that they could electronically yank, and pull us in. Leisure time and the 40-hour work week began to disappear. More and more, we became slaves to technology too.
And instead of fighting back against this threat to our personal freedom, we embraced it. Science gave us the Internets, laptops, GPS locators and cell phones, nano this and micro that. Before we fully realized what was happening, we were assimilated. But the Borg didn’t get us. We weren’t taken over and subjugated by force. We did it to ourselves; trapped by our own technology.
We have fallen in love with the very things that enslaved us. Now, we cannot go anywhere without being within easy reach of work or a marketing agency. We cannot go anywhere without being bombarded by advertisements, spam or unwelcome overtime. Name it and work or business uses it to reach us. Whether it’s iPods, HDTV, satellite radio, email or pop up ads, sun up to sundown, we can run but we cannot hide.
So what does all this mean? Nothing perhaps. Or perhaps it may be the beginning of something that will shake the world. Consider this. The lowly beeper ‑ the thing that gave us the freedom to leave the house ‑ has grown to become our electro‑conqueror. If technology ever evolves to the point where computers become sentient, the beeper may well become their Old Testament Techno‑Christ.