by Donnie Jenkins
Regrettably this will be my last column for the People News, as I have accepted an offer to author a column for the Chattanooga Times-Free Press on a weekly basis, and simply do not have the time to do both. I'd like to thank Pete, Sandra and all of you who have been so helpful and supportive in your comments and your emails to me. The People News is a valuable local resource, and it has been my pleasure to be a part of it these past few months. Please support this excellent local paper in any way you can.
This month I'd like to close my series of columns with some general thoughts and observations about technology and its importance and impact upon all of us. It has been said that, if NASA had advanced in space at the same rate as computers have developed, we would be over one hundred solar systems away in our explorations of the galaxy. There is no doubt that computers have changed everything, from gas pumps to banking to how we write and create. A computer is now an accepted appliance, not an oddity as it was when I began using one. There has never been a tool in history that changed so much so fast as the computer and the technology based upon it. Its blessings are many, and its negatives are just as evident as witnessed in the use of computers in terrorist attacks online and recruiting efforts on behalf of Al-Quaida and other evil entities. For better or worse we will be living with the computer from now on.
In three years or less we will be required by law to carry a "National ID Card" with some sort of machine readable chip inside, as mandated by the law creating it and discussed on the cover of a recent People News issue. States will be required to begin sharing their databases, stored sources of personal information, with the federal government, on a regular basis. There will begin to be a common and uniform way of identifying you anywhere you go in the country. It is only computers that make this possible.
Ever wonder where all that junk mail comes from and how they know those personal things like, you just got married, you just bought a new home, you just went bankrupt? Your personal information is now fodder for sale, collected every time you register online, start a bank account, install a phone, buy a home, etc. Again, the computer makes the collection, organization, and sale of your information possible and simple.
Ever wonder why your credit score is so important when you apply for a loan or perhaps just wonder why you have a credit score? Or who has control over that process? Did you know that at one time, if not now, your credit could be damaged simply by a company doing a credit check on you without your knowledge or approval? And that this often happened via an automated computer program used by telemarketers, the catfish of the sales world? Probably not. But the damage was done to millions who didn't have a clue, and computers made it easy to do.
In the future computers will become invisible and very non-invasive, but increasingly more useful and vital to our daily lives. Even now, our local cable provider and several satellite companies offer Tivo-like devices, named after the first device of its kind, the Tivo. These devices are set top appliances that look much like a VCR or DVD player. They are basically a set top computer, with a hard drive to record shows onto and a scheduling ability that is incredible. I use one of these devices and I would never go back to life without it unless the sky fell. It has changed the way I watch and record TV and made it a totally different and more pleasant experience. And this is because it has a very sophisticated and invisible computer running it. Again, an old way of doing things bites the dust and the computer moves along.
In the excellent classic nerdy show Max Headroom about how we might live in the future, life depends upon computers for everything. Those who will not choose to live on the grid, so to speak, are called Blanks, named after the fact that there is no record of them in any computer. They have their own sub-culture and way of life. We may one day see a society such as this and we may have to make some difficult choices. There is a hospital in Florida that won't accept you now as a patient unless you are willing to have a small chip implanted while you are there. As I discussed in an earlier column, RFID tags exist today to track merchandise at retail stores and who knows what else in the future. As has been said in one of those wisest of writings, a fairy tale, things are getting curiouser and curiouser all the time. We may soon be living in a society where up is down and right is left. To make good decisions we have to know what our choices are, and to do that we have to be informed. I hope we will all pay close attention to how things change in the near future and that we will be willing to be active to be sure that we always move our culture toward being more informed and open minded toward technology, while at the same time keeping an ever vigilant eye on just how it's being used. Thanks again for reading, and I wish you all well.
Thanks again for reading. You can contact me at:
firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas and comments. See you next time.
Editor's note: We at The People News are sad to lose Donnie Jenkins from our group of regular writers and wish him well as a full time employee of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He is a fine writer and his articles were always entertaining and informative and we thank him for helping to improve the popularity of The People News. His readers can still enjoy his work in the CTFP.