Thursday, April 16, 2015

404 Error: Common sense not found


That’s the last phone number I have memorized. It also happens to be my home phone number … when I was a child.

Cellphones, tablets, laptops, GPS and other forms of technology have opened up storage space within our brains by making it unnecessary to memorize information. Life is easier, but what happens when technology malfunctions or goes away completely?

Recently in Green Valley, W.Va., a flatbed truck hauling lumber overturned on an embankment. According to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, the driver went up a narrow roadway that he could not maneuver through. In an attempt to back up, the trailer flipped over an embankment.

Why did the driver take that route? His GPS told him to.

Modern technology frees our mind of basic decision-making skills, but at the cost of disabling us from making those decisions when we need to. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a wonderful, digital age we live in, but we need to supplement gadgets with good ol’ “analog” methods.

Most truckers have lived most of their lives without the kind of smart technology we have today. I was born in 1983. I didn’t have the Internet until my senior year in high school, and I didn’t replace my pager with a cellphone until I was 18. A smartphone with GPS capabilities? Not until I was in my mid-20s. I am young enough to be tech savvy, but just barely old enough to know a world without such conveniences.

Children born in the early ’80s will be the last generation to know the need to memorize data and read a map. As the Millennials get older and become the next generation of drivers, they may be entirely dependent on technology. Forbes has predicted that driverless cars will take over by 2040. It’s one thing to draw a blank when trying to call someone when your cellphone is dead. It’s quite another, and more serious, predicament when you need to override the automation system of a metal machine that weighs several tons and is hurtling down the roads at 65 mph.

Sometimes new technology doesn’t always mean better technology. Mp3 players are quick, easy and allow us to store thousands of songs on a tiny device. However, the sound of a 33 record through a tube amp is far superior to any digital download, CD or cassette tape. In much the same way, electronic logging devices may be easier, but they can never accurately reflect real-life data on the road.

Necessity is the mother of invention. So is convenience in 2015. Let’s all make sure we can function in the absence of convenient technology and not completely replace “the original” with lesser, newer (albeit more convenient) technology.

Convenience is dangerous when abused and taken for granted.