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Approaching Ludditia

First there was the car. The new car. This would have been maybe two years ago, or nearly. I’d never had automatic windows before that, or automatic locks, I mean remote locks, or one of those digital speedometer things, you know, and my car tells me when the air in one of my tires is low.

These were all great big changes for me, from my old car, but nothing really changed. It was the way I got to work and to my parents’ house and to some other places too, sometimes, and from. I notice something and what I notice is three weeks is all it takes until the new things become routine and you stop noticing and that’s when the old things become the old days.

Except Jamie leaving. Jamie leaving takes longer.

In November, I got a smart phone. Before that, I had a dumb phone, which was fine, a dumb phone was just fine, except for the screen stopped working and then I couldn’t tell anymore who was calling me. I accidentally answered the phone for people I did not wish to talk to and so I had to buy a new one.

“Oh, Harry!” they said to me when I bought a smart phone. “It’s about time! It is going to change your life.”

But it did not change my life and they were very wrong. All of them. My life, driving my twenty-first century car, talking on my twenty-first century phone, it’s the same as my old life before, pretty much, but now I take more pictures and also I am able to read group texts. When I walk I take pictures of the buildings and sometimes the street and I’m trying to take a picture of that corner of my room that quivers in and out.

I read somewhere that a lot of us now define ourselves too much by advances in technology. You know, like “Rufus, what did you accomplish this year?” and Rufus says, “Oh, well, I’ve got a Fitbit now.”

There could be something to that.

I don’t know. I have to think about it some more. 

Comments

  1. It's surprisingly mundane, isn't it, living in the future? It's convenient, and that's the end. There is no greater purpose for anything to serve, for convenience is the only thing we still seek to add to our lives.
    And maybe that's fine. It probably is, we've been marching towards ever increasing comforts since we stopped gathering and started farming.

    We're already defining ourselves by the machines we own. Soon enough, we'll define ourselves by the machines that are a part of us, physically.

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    1. It's hard for me to complain about that, though, because I know that almost all of my free time is spent in a world of entertainments. Music, books, movies... I've created a world for myself in which I'm surrounded by entertainment consumables.

      Not worried about getting more money or food or shelter, but... good songs.

      Which is only a couple steps over from defining myself by technology.

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    2. I mean, that's not at all unreasonable. Good songs give you the kind of feelings good luck in life gave our caveman ancestors. It's not like we get to experience their situations anymore, so we have to craft increasingly elaborate stimuli to recapture those feelings. Why do people enjoy horror? *It makes them feel alive.*

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  2. I want to hear more about the corner of your room that quivers.....is it a portal and if so where does it lead.....to the past or the future or somewhere else entirely?

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    1. Until I can get a picture of it, I'm not claiming it's real. Give me a few more days.

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  3. Hello, fellow Luddite. I am increasingly disturbed at how much you and I have in common. I only got a car with automatic windows and remote locks 5 years ago. I still like playing with them -- makes me feel like a WIZARD! I am actively resisting My Rare One's constant lobbying that I should get a Smartphone. Oh, I tell her that I'm going to look into it and yes, yes, that old flip phone REALLY must go, but secretly I am procrastinating. I just don't want to spend the friggin money on it or the more expensive phone plan that will require data . . . is that SO wrong of me?

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    1. Haha... Well, I use what I buy until it doesn't work anymore. That's good, right? It means I'm not constantly looking at the new gee-whiz-bang stuff my co-workers have and rushing out to keep up with them.

      We have a guy here at work who still uses a flip phone because he's afraid of getting hacked and apparently, flip phones can't get hacked. I wish my reasons for old tech were matters of principle.

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    2. Harry ... as far as i know, with looking in a real library .. 'Ken" 'Bill" "Ludd" never existed --
      However - the group never wanted to,, intended to - "destroy" the cotton mills at that time - only to agitate for "fair wages" .. since their 'jobs' and 'houses' became 'un-affordable' as their 'rural' lives, communities - and families were -...........

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  4. Never had a smart phone. My phone, which my friend Sara gave to me because I didn't have one at all, is a cheap little Samsung thing, and requires me to buy minutes on a card to use it. I just bought one of those cards, 200 minutes for $40, but I have a double minutes thingie, so I got 400 (plus an extra bonus 40 because it was close to my birthday). The last card I bought was in August. So that's $40 for, what, six months? I don't think I need a smart phone for that level of usage. I just need to text good morning to two women every day, and make the occasional call to a business or a friend, and twice every three months to the Highland Hospital Pharmacy Refill Robot to get my prescriptions refilled.
    I have this sneaking suspicion that were I to get a smartphone and start paying for its usage, that payment would find its way into the "necessary" column in my budget, when It is obviously not necessary at all.
    We are currently driving a car with power windows and locks. It's a '92 Mercedes 190e we got from our friend Rob last year for $500.
    So I sort of feel like I'm sneaking my way into the 21st century... Kind of like I did with music software.
    My old computer has pirated versions of three different digital music suites, and don't even get me started on Linux or the hundreds of hours I wasted on learning it before I discovered that it absolutely sucks for music.

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    1. Power windows and locks were available as far back as 1992, then, even though my 2002 Ford Ranger didn't have them. I'm not sure I could find a new car without them today. (I didn't mention this in the post, but my new car even has a back-up camera!)

      I'm a little more up to date with the way I consume music. I don't buy many CDs these days. Starting in about 2012, I started downloading music on iTunes, and now I tend to listen to albums on Spotify for a few days or weeks before downloading them on bandcamp.

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    2. Well, the power locks aren't the radio controlled open-the-car-from-the-key-fob variety, they just open or lock all of the locks from the driver's side door or the trunk. They were still a new feature for me, as my Corolla didn't have them, our Datsun didn't have them, and my Torino didn't have them.
      I'm old.
      After my music collection on cassette tape (the one that replaced the nearly identical collection on vinyl, but expanded it with shows I recorded myself and thus couldn't be replaced) was stolen in 2001, I was ripe for becoming a cheerful pirate the moment I discovered Lime Wire...
      Then I set about making a sound system that could make those low-bitrate MP3s sound listenable.
      It centered around a $20 Mad Dog Media soundcard that produced 5.1 surround sound out of my recycled Compaq desktop computer. I built special cables that connected the card to my PA system, no component of which was manufactured later than the eighties, and got fairly good results in the largish room where I first set it up.
      I have since given away about half of that rig, as I had nowhere to set it up for a few years, and the friend who moved it for me twice is a musician also.
      I still have the front side mains (two Yamaha PA cabinets with 15" drivers and smaller high end drivers, powered by a 6 channel Yamaha stereo mixer) the center channel (a small Carvin PA amp) and the massive overkill of a subwoofer (a Peavey dual folded horn bass bin with a pair of EV 15s in it) but they haven't been plugged in for years.
      I do have a pair of Smiphee dual driver earbuds (I hate that word) that make my laptop sound pretty good, and being disabled and all, don't seem to have much enthusiasm for moving large pieces of audio equipment around any more.
      My friend who moved it all twice did remark "I guess Doug doesn't believe in owning anything that weighs less than 100 pounds."
      And yes, I have a large box of CDs, but I don't think I've even opened it since we moved here.

      -Doug in Oakland

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    3. I understand. I've lived in this place for about 11 years now. When I moved in, my CDs and books were my prize possessions.Now I just wonder how I'm going to get them all out of here the next time I move.

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  5. I'm not a lover of the motor car and only really keep one around because my wife is disabled. I have loads of gadgets on my bike though... GPS, cameras, 21st century lighting too.

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    1. Hi, Captain! I'd do the bike thing if Houston was any easier to navigate on bike. I put about 6,000 miles a year on my car, consistently, which I'm told is low.

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  6. "...tells me when the air in one of my tires is low" - I feel compelled to share a story/warning about those air pressure sensors. People don't bother to understand how these new gadgets work and really we would be taking a good amount of time figuring things out since the gadgets come at us so quickly. Had I known about this sensor I could saved some cash.
    So a few years ago we get a flat while in a remote area. So we try this fix-a-flat stuff. It doesn't work and I would suggest never trying it. The replacement tire cost about $100 more because the air pressure sensor was ruined by the fix-a-flat junk. Oh why bother replacing the air pressure sensor - it is a mandatory on all US cars since 2005 (I might be a year off).
    The smartphone can really change your daily life. The change is related to the apps you decide to use on the smartphone. In other words how much do you want to share with corporate America.

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    1. I worked with a woman whose car was stolen and trashed out. During the trashing, one of her tires was actually ripped off the car - straight through to the axle, apparently. She had Onstar or something like it, which was supposed to text her when something was wrong with the car. Three days after the car was recovered, she got a text saying the missing tire was low...

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  7. That last thought about defining accomplishments by technology is intriguing and depressing. I also agree with Bill, a smartphone could change your life if you use the right apps in a proper manner. Now, how you would do such a thing is beyond me, but you COULD do it. It could also negatively affect your life if you get too involved with social media. Either way, good luck.

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    1. The worst technology thing I can imagine is getting addicted to blogging that one spends one's free time planning out what to post next. What a nightmare that would be. Thank God I'll never do that... for eleven years.

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  8. I got a smart phone this year, but I only use it at work because I don't get a signal at home. So I use it to make phone calls and I learned how to text now, but don't need to do it much. I still have to roll down my windows in the truck and lock the doors with a key. Can you even get those things anymore?

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    1. A key?

      You know, a lot of the "advances" with cars make sense to me. Not sure about the push-button start thing,though. How is that better than turning a key?

      If I cared more about cars, I'd go buy a 1980-something truck and just pay to keep it up.

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  9. Well my car is a 2008 and I don't own a cell phone or a smart phone, but I love to play with my pet squirrels! What does that say about me? LOL!

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    1. It tells me that when the apocalypse comes and the rest of us are wandering around unable to function without our phones, you're going to be living it up somewhere, perfectly happy, with the squirrels.

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  10. I'm struck with the image at the top of the post, do you know who the artist is? Thanks!

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    1. Robert Steven Connett https://rsconnett.deviantart.com/gallery/
      Over the years, I've used his images to accompany my words more than once, most recently on this page for a post I did called "First Flu."
      I like his stuff.

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    2. Drowning in information and starving for knowledge is kind of how I feel about all of our technology. I just don't know if it's a good thing for us to be constantly inundated with information. Take care, Harry.

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    3. Hi, Mr. Shife. Probably because of my age, I'm never going to get used to it. I'll walk into a (younger) co-worker's office and ask a question and they will turn to the computer with a deadpan look and type my question into google.. "for me."

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  11. I've got a coworker who we, as a team, talked into getting a smartphone so he could be in on the group chats and send us pictures of our schedules on our days off. His sister gave him her old iphone, and within a week, he loved it so much he upgraded to the latest greatest model. BUT, he still won't respond to the group texts.

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    1. That's hilarious. Baby steps!

      Group texts were always a problem for me. I couldn't even read the messages that said my office was closed for bad weather.

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  12. I especially like that you don’t define yourself or your life by the tools you use. Stone Age men have stone tools and the automatic window era is when humans use automatic windows. We all are so much more than that.

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    1. Hi there, Onevikinggirl! I'm not exactly living in humankind's natural state and I think I'd probably go through some serious withdrawal if I had to go without internet for any period of time, but I'm getting better at keeping it in check. Hopefully.

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  13. I agree with you that, where gadgetry is concerned, a lot of people these days fetishize novelty for novelty's sake. Whenever I have to rent a car, it's always a recent model, and the new gadgetry in it is often startling; however, it doesn't make driving a substantially different experience. I don't know exactly what an "app" is or what differentiates a smartphone from a non-smart phone, nor do I have much interest in finding out.

    Still, some technology really has been revolutionary. The internet has decentralized the flow of information, making it much harder for authoritarians and bluenoses to censor anything. This is especially valuable for people living under theocratic regimes or other authoritarian states, who can now communicate with each other and get access to information to an extent impossible in pre-internet days. Without the internet, you and I would be unaware of each other's existence and, probably, of Mr. Connett's art (which your blog has just now caused me to discover).

    Fang, commenting above, said "Soon enough, we'll define ourselves by the machines that are a part of us, physically." Such technology is already becoming routine. I have artificial hip joints, without which I would long ago have been confined to a wheelchair. I know two people who have had cataract surgery, replacing the clouded natural lenses of their eyes with artificial ones, which allowed them to regain normal vision. Other people have artificial heart valves, or brain implants to control Parkinson's. These things don't define people so much as they free people from being defined by disability.

    I agree with Onevikinggirl that we are not defined by a particular level or style of tool use. However, we as a species are defined by the fact that we use tools which increase in sophistication over time. And that increase is only just now starting to get into its stride.

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    1. I love to read anarcho-primitivists like Daniel Quinn, but when I do, I always try to remember something Robert Anton Wilson said: "I had polio as a kid and I still walk with a limp. Anyone who wants to turn back the clock on our advances is an idiot."

      Technological advances are great but might not be making us any happier, really. How can an improved quality of life through things like your hips NOT make people any happier? I don't know. Polls of people satisfaction with life imply maybe we're not any happier, though.

      Any example of tech is a tool. Do some people define themselves by... their use of hammers? Yes. A generation of kids defined themselves by the electric guitar, or what they could do with an electric guitar.

      So... Getting a new iphone isn't an accomplishment. But maybe using an app to create something useful or cool IS an accomplishment.

      I don't know. That's why I just raised the question. I suck at answers.

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    2. How can an improved quality of life through things like your hips NOT make people any happier? I don't know.

      I think self-assessments of happiness tend to stay at the same general level regardless of reality, because problems which are no longer with us don't call themselves to our attention. For example, my own current situation is a profoundly unhappy one. Obviously if I were confined to a wheelchair it would be even worse, but most of the time I don't assess my current state as "happier" due to that, because I'm not thinking about it most of the time -- being able to walk normally is a given.

      This applies even more when the solved problem is no longer in living memory for most people. Modern people probably don't assess themselves as being happier because they no longer have a 50% infant mortality rate to deal with, but the fact remains that they'd be a lot unhappier if that problem were still with us.

      So, yes, we're getting happier, but we still obsess over whatever problems we still have, even though people 500 years ago would have judged them trivial.

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  14. This is such a phony post. You're going to hell in a flea-handcar.

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    1. Phones and fleas. Two of my favorite writing topics!

      Next week's post is even worse!

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  15. I don't own a mobile phone. "Group texts" sends a shudder down my spine. I can't even handle one text. But I love my car with it's heated seats, electric windows and cd player.

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    1. My car has heated seats. Sadly, it doesn't have a CD player. I'm not sure there was a single car on the lot which had a CD player when I bought this one. This is sort of awful in light of how many CDs I own but I'm slowly making the transition to getting my music digitally.

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    2. Mmm... at this point methinks the Luddites (a made up name BTW) were either behind their times ... or in front of it (am not allowed to mention those blokes in smiley masks ... heh).

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  16. My last car had the crank roll-down windows and lock-it-with-a-key thingy, no a/c, and no radio (until I put one in). I bought it in Buffalo, where you really don't need a/c. Of course, one week after I bought it, my husband got a job offer that eventually transferred us to South Carolina. Where it gets up to 109º in the summer. If there is a God, he (she?) has a wicked sense of humor. My new car (well, it's 10 years old now) has all the fancy things, but it's a stick shift. So I'm still one of the cool people.

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    1. My first car was a 1965 Mustang (old already at the time) which had to a/c. I live in Houston. I worked retail in high school and I'd get to work with my clothes with sweat to my body. I'm not sure a car without a/c is even an option now. Surely they don't sell cars like that, even up north?

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  17. It is my intention to become a luddite upon my retirement, should G-d grant that I live that long. For me, that means no technology newer than, say, 1936. That still gives me dial phones, and decent pickup trucks, and good centerfire rifle cartridges, so I should be OK.

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    1. I stick with the old stuff as long as possible. Gets harder and harder and way less convenient to find it in working order.

      But yeah, the job is a big impediment to that now. Before I finally broke down and got a smart phone I wasn't even able to read the group texts that cancelled work...

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  18. My Lifestyle Balance coach is trying to change my life for me. He keeps recommending the fitbit. Like that will make me eat less chocolate. Hah!

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