A Look on the bright side of the Technojungle, the positive results that can be humanizing along with some struggles as illustrated through some personal stories.
Yes, the Technojungle came to everyone’s rescue during the pandemic. For many, it became the only way to keep in touch with family, relatives, friends, work, and for acquisition of supplies. We used to go to the library to get videos, just to have another outing, now we stream movies from the online Technojungle. My wife and I both retired during the pandemic and now spend most of our days online, or at least on our computers. My wife talks with her girlfriends on the phone. I actually spend all day and evening on my computer and also watching our evening movie. We try to have a daily walk and once a week we go shopping. Once a week we have a delivery of groceries we ordered online. Church prayers are by conference phone call, Bible study by video conference, and Sunday evening service is streamed live online. It seems we live in the online Technojungle. What would life be like without it? It’s a new way of living, a new way of being human beings.
Get ready for more stories from my life in the Technojungle. This chapter is going to be long with many positive aspects of the Technojungle. I feel it is a good way to get back on the path and to embark on the rest of our safari together in the Technojungle. There is a lot of good stuff to discuss about the Technojungle.
While I have tried to point out some positive aspects of the Technojungle in book one and in this book two, you may have felt I was being overly critical. It may seem so, but let’s not forget the goals of these books—to improve our condition and situations in the Technojungle by learning to protect ourselves from becoming absorbed by our machines; to keep technology from replacing humans and humanity; that we may we begin to redeem and reclaim, that which we may have lost; retain and maintain what we have today; and protect our humanness and humanity as we continue being human beings, living in a world of technology—the Technojungle.
Let’s begin, of course, with a couple of questions. Are there some unquestionably good things that come out of the Technojungle? Can you take a moment to think of some?
To someone who is missing a limb, a prosthetic limb can offer a more normal life. It is hard to argue about the positives of that. Medical advancements is one area where technology has brought us many benefits. There was some discussion about medical advancements in book one. However, I must caution that we need to look deep below the surface in each case to understand what is really happening.
I’m not interested in denying the good that comes from the Technojungle; I am just asking the questions to make sure it is what it is, or is not. Remember, I want you to learn to look around you, see what is happening and ask your own questions. As you safari, try to envision what might be unexpected baggage in the future. Can you think of any instances where what seems a wonderful solution at first lead to something unexpected?
There can be some serious aspects of medical technological advancements. If we make artificial smart limbs that seem to perform better than a human one, does it make that person better in some way? What happens if a person has a significant number of body parts replaced? Does that person become less human? Could a person cross the line from human to Technojungle machine? These are extreme questions, or, are they?
Then there are the rare cases where someone loses a limb or body part and it causes a spark within them to do something they would not have otherwise done. They use their loss as a challenge. Can you think of any people who went through the loss of a limb or other aspect of the body and then accomplished something great?
Our digital personal records, such as X-rays, can be sent anywhere in the world through the online Technojungle, however, we have to ask ourselves if we like the idea, or want them to be sent by a means where they could be intercepted by someone else? Who? An insurance agency that might deny coverage. Do the benefits outweigh the problems? Sending film X-rays of which there are no copies to another expert has the danger of the package getting lost or damaged. Digital ones can be sent and both doctors can view them at the same time. This seems to be a bonus not baggage.
I mentioned in book one that my daughter called me from the other side of the world in Australia for free using Technojungle VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol). There we were talking with crystal clear sound (even better at times than many local calls) and it was as if she was right there in the same room. It is hard, with the excitement of hearing from my child I have not seen for many months, to find something negative in this, or dehumanizing. This was truly amazing! Thank you Technojungle. Communicating with someone over a long distance is wonderful, what could go wrong?
Free may not be exactly free, as we will understand in the next chapter. We should always remember that anything that goes out over the Internet into the Technojungle is no longer absolutely private and secure. It can be tracked, traced, recorded, stored and used by anyone with the knowledge, skills, equipment and desire to do so. Whatever ‘they’ out there can collect from you is theirs to use as they please. That is dehumanizing. Should this be considered stealing? Still it is worth it for me to hear my little girl’s voice. We just have to be careful what we talk about, not that we have anything to hide. That’s a comment I hear often when I talk to other people about the security of their personal information in the Technojungle—“I don’t care, I have nothing to hide.”
I do take advantage of technology and the Technojungle. Here is an important, and long, example of how the Technojungle has allowed me to write these books and publish them myself.
As a lefty, I have never found writing easy. My handwriting has always bothered me. I tried every pen and pencil I could find. Still my writing never improved much. For me, writing was dehumanizing. A large part of this is due to having Essential Tremor (ET), a problem that makes my hands shaky, unsteady and somewhat uncoordinated. The computer has made writing much easier for me, plus I can copy and edit and make it look so much better than anything I could write by hand. Perhaps this has made me more human. However, over the years the tremors have worsened and I now miss and hit the wrong keys, or I hit keys more than once. I’m experimenting with keyboard settings to see if I can reduce the mistakes. I’m also trying to use dictation more, but that does not help with editing where I have to move around in the text to make changes. Do you use any assistive technologies to help you do any tasks?
Consider some of the ways you take advantage of technology and the Technojungle, even using assistive technologies, and ask how you have been made more human and less human? Isn’t there usually baggage that comes with using the Technojungle to become more human? This is what this book is about. What are some of the unexpected prices we are asked—no demanded—to pay for life in this futuristic Technojungle?
Since typing, the computer, and keyboard are such quintessential components in our lives, let’s have a closer look as I tell more stories. This is going to be another mini safari.
When I was a very young man, not long after graduating high school I suppose, my parents figured that I should learn to type. That is, touch type, without looking at the keys, and not ‘hunt and peck.’ I’m sure you have seen people typing with their two index fingers. My mother found a class downtown that used modern technology to teach touch typing. As I recall, to learn to touch type using this modern technology meant sitting at a typewriter with my fingers covered, looking up at a TV screen where a keyboard was displayed. A key would highlight, the letter was spoken out, and I had to type it. That sounds easy, right? Well, it did get going at a pretty good clip and it was hard to keep up. I would not call myself the most coordinated person, so I’m not the fastest typist.
I did, through this simple process and the modern technology of the Technojungle, learn to touch type and to this day can look at copy, at the screen, or sometimes into the air (sometimes TV) and type. I just sit back and close my eyes and type. As I said, I am not really fast, probably due to being a bit of a perfectionist, I like to get it right as I go along, so I stop often and make corrections. But I can touch type. Actually, I learned to touch type using Technojungle technology so I could communicate faster with and through the Technojungle. Do you touch-type? How did you learn this skill?
My dad often told me the story of the day he saw a typewriter in the window of a store. This story sounds like a story a jazz musician might tell where the musician sees an instrument instead of the typewriter. He managed to gather some money together, or had my grandparents pay for it. My dad told me that he had little caps that went over the keys to cover the letters. He typed for a while looking for the letters and then put the caps on and typed from memory. It worked for him.
Above: I remember trying to use one of these professional typewriters. Below: My dad had this portable typewriter. It had a case like a suitcase. The bottom was thin so the typewriter could be used while still in the case, or removed. Last: Finally, my dad bought an electric typewriter. The keys were very sensitive.
In those days when I learned to type, there were no personal computers. Those were just around the corner in the Technojungle. Computers were still huge and only used by large businesses. The Technojungle was a different place from what you know today.
Typewriters came in manual or electric. Manual typewriters required a fair amount of pressure on each key to make the little arm with the letter on it, swing up and strike hard enough to make an impression through an ink ribbon on to the paper. You would need to press very hard if you were making copies using carbon paper.
Carbon paper was somewhat messy paper that could be placed between two, or even three pieces of paper if you could press hard enough, and get another copy. When a key was pressed, the character matrix would strike a ribbon close to the paper. The ink in the ribbon would transfer to the paper. If there was carbon paper under the sheet of paper, the impact would also transfer carbon to the next piece of paper thus making a copy. Ribbons usually had black and red. It was a long strip that advanced as you typed so a fresh part of the ribbon was available for the next character. If you made a mistake, a separate white ribbon of paper that came on a roll could be used. It had a white substance on one side. Placing it between the ribbon and the paper would cause the white to transfer to the paper instead of the ink. This required using the backspace key to go back to your mistake, type the exact same characters as the mistake, then go back again to type the correction.
This was the Technojungle typing environment I learned in. It was certainly awkward.
I remember walking down the hall at school and glancing through the door of one particular classroom. There sat students learning the business skill of typing. I recall they had a red covered book propped up like an easel in an A-frame. They had to stare at the book, type and then flip the page over. I felt sorry for them as I listened to the clacking of the typewriter keys.
Electric typewriters had very sensitive keys. It was an awkward machine. If you hit two keys at the same time, the little arms could meet at the strike point and get jammed together. No wonder some people resorted to the hunt and peck system where they only needed their single index finger on each hand. Many people still type on computer keyboards using the hunt and peck system. I know that many newspaper articles have been written by writers who simply used this method.
Eventually, more sophisticated electric typewriters came with some nifty features, like a feature for making a correction. You couldn’t make a major correction, just a small typo. I remember some electric typewriters that came out with a small one line display. You could type and make a correction as you typed, however, I think you had to do it before you got too far along the line. This meant you had to keep one eye on this tiny display. I guess it also meant that what got typed lagged behind when you typed it. That must have been strange. You type, it appears on the one line display and then is finally typed on the paper, meanwhile you are typing another line.
Finally, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs began peddling personal computers from a garage through their new company Apple Computers Inc. (now Apple Inc.). This was the answer to my difficulties. But the early computers were expensive and required one to sort of step into a whole new world of screens, disk drives, printers, programs and soon much more. The baggage was immense. It still is, as we are discovering on our safari. The personal computer changed the world and caused us humans to jump into a brand new strange digital world of the Technojungle with all its unexpected surprises.
To say that the computer and the Technojungle solved some of my difficulties is certainly true. In many ways, it made me a little bit more human. That is, I could write and do so many things that were difficult or impossible for me before. The computer, of course is much more than a typewriting machine. How does the computer, or computers in their various forms, take up a huge portion of your life in the Technojungle? What are some of the sorts of baggage you deal with? What might computers be like in the future?
Yesterday I filed the Annual Report for my company. In the old days, I received the papers in the mail, filled them in, wrote a cheque and mailed everything in. It took days and cost money for a stamp, not to mention the trip to mail it. For years now, I have been able to do all this online through the Internet Technojungle. I get an E-mail reminder with all the information I need to get logged in. It usually takes only minutes and I can pay online. Yesterday, the payment entry brought up an error. I ended up calling the Help Line. As I waited, I wondered. Why is it that something can work so well everyday and then suddenly a problem occurs? What changes? I usually wonder, was it something I did, or was doing, was it a glitch, or something someone else did? Isn’t this an example of seemingly unexplainable unexpected baggage we may struggle with on safari? It is dehumanizing because it takes so much extra time and definitely causes frustration.
Over the years, I have observed that technology and the Technojungle works pretty well most of the time. When you really need it though, (I’m not necessarily talking emergency here), it can get slow, or just plain act up.
The lady on the Help Line asked me whether I had Accept Cookies Always on in my browser preferences. I realized that, after having my credit card compromised the year before, I had taken some steps to be a little more secure in my online Technojungle life and probably had changed the settings.
I could hear the Technojungle laughing behind my back as my browser was grinding to a halt. I was truly struggling to make the changes, while still on the phone. I mean, it really slowed own to a crawl. The lady asked what browser I was using and then, upon my reply, stated that they don’t support it (even though, I thought to myself, it has worked other years). She asked me to launch another one. It took forever because I had not used it for a long time and it had to make some checks as to software and extension updates, you know, the usual annoying stuff. The lady could not wait and said I could call her back if I needed further assistance. Wait a second, was this a government employee that didn’t have time to wait for me? Now that is funny. Anyway, I did get the payment completed. Sometimes I think the Technojungle has some sort of twisted sense of humor and this may have been an example.
I woke up in the morning to no Internet. In this next example, I spent about ten minutes unplugging the cable modem and my wireless router and then plugging them in to start them up in various combinations. I got on the phone and waited and waited for a person to answer my call. I listened to some distorted music and some announcements. I told them about the distortion over a year ago and I guess they were so busy they had not been able to get around to fixing it. All this came after the dehumanizing, “Press one for English…,” “Press X for X service…,” and the ever so notorious, “All of our service technicians are busy, please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order it was received.” Absent, for some reason, was the call-back feature where you are kept in the line-up and they call you back without you having to hang around flattening your ear with your phone, or putting your phone on speaker and letting everybody in the room hear the distorted music.
After twenty minutes on the phone and more unplugging of my cable modem and router, I was told that there were service interruptions in my area and that the services would be back up and running in an hour or so. All is well now, however, I wondered why, when I initially called in, they had an announcement about interruptions in another area, and also that notices were sent out about other service interruptions, but nothing about the service interruptions in my area. I guess the Technojungle really is not perfect, or one hundred percent reliable and neither are the humans who should have added a message at the beginning regarding an outage in my area. Maybe it will always be jungle of some sort out there.
Many technological advancements come along and leave me wondering why I would ever need them, use them, or do something with them. It can be a bit befuddling until, one day you realize that it, texting for example, has become part of your life and that you probably would not choose to do without it. Can you think of examples of other new technology that puzzled you until, one day, you realized that you could not live without it? How did it change your life? Do you find you are deeper in the Technojungle because of the technology?
During the early days of the Internet Technojungle, when there were very few footprints of the general public, I was getting Usenet newsfeeds (an early form of forums arranged in categories), E-mail, and other services from someone who ran a Unix computer connected to the Internet Technojungle from his basement.
FREE??? That’s the first thought I had when the fellow in his basement asked if I had seen Mosaic and the World Wide Web (WWW). No, I replied. He informed me that I had to see it, that it was the future, and that I could download the software for free. How can they give software for something like this away for free?
I downloaded it and found archaic webpages of text with highlighted words called hyperlinks. I could click on hyperlinks and get to other content and some images within the text. I saw this as pretty interesting, yet very limited. I wondered how one might stay on track while following all the links.
I could easily get lost! That’s right, lost in the Technojungle of hyperlinks. This was the unexpected future; to get lost in the hyperlinks. When I was young, nobody predicted this as a promise of technology in the future. Have you ever been lost in the hyperlinks? What was your first impression of the World Wide Web?
During those early days of the Internet Technojungle, I got involved with a service provider. I remember going to businesses trying sell them a website and other services. “Why would we need this?” asked one businessman. “What would I do with this?” stated another. It was difficult to see the usefulness of a Technojungle website.
Have you ever found it difficult to see how a new technology and aspect of the Technojungle might be useful? Isn’t it even more difficult to foresee the full impact, both positive and negative, of a new technology in the Technojungle? Early adopters jump in with both feet. Others wait to see what might happen, or they stick a toe in the water. Others wait to see how they might really need the technology. We need to go a step further and ask questions. We need to ask how we can maintain control and not have the new technology and the Technojungle overrun our life? We must ask, “How does this technology make me more or less human?”
The other day, my daughter called me again from Australia using the VoIP app on our smartphones. This is only one of a few technologies we use to communicate for free through the Technojungle to the other side of the world (at least we think it is free). She was mentioning that, while out of the country, she must let her credit card company know every three months that she is still out of the country. They had given her a phone number that would work for a free call from Australia. The problem she was having was that the number would not work. The cell phone company in Australia said it would be very costly to use any other numbers to call and then have to wait in line for someone to become available to talk to her.
I looked at my credit card with a magnifying glass and found the number for North America and, while we continued to talk over VoIP, I called using my house phone and, after navigating through the foliage of choices, began to wait in the Technojungle line-up for my turn at customer service. Soon someone answered and I began to explain that the number my daughter had been provided with would not work and asked if there was another number. Suddenly, I realized I had both of them on two different phones at the same time. I put both phones on speaker and placed them on my desk. After the fellow at the credit card company went through some verification questions, the credit card representative and my daughter talked. He made some notes in the file as to when she would be home, so she would not have to call again. It was strange to have two phones talking to each other.
I had to chuckle as I thought about how interesting this was. I was talking to my daughter over VoIP, an Internet-based phone call using the wireless Internet connection on our smartphones. We talked to the credit card company using a regular cordless landline phone and a North American phone number. The two of them had talked using the microphone and speakers of my phones. This was essentially an analog connection between two digital systems. We did all this for free. The Technojungle was working really well to do something humanizing.
Another situation came up where I realized I might try the same tactic. This time however, the person on the other end refused to allow the connection as we had done before. She stated that I could not be involved and hear the discussion because I had not been approved by my daughter. I said, not expecting she would go along, that I could put the phones on my desk together and leave the room. That would not be appropriate either.
I have told you plenty of stories here to illustrate some of the positives and negatives of my life and safaris in the Technojungle. There are many other examples of how the Technojungle improves my life and our lives. Just as walking in a real jungle can be amazing, beautiful, invigorating, exciting, and much more. The Technojungle can be an amazing place—wherever that place actually is. We need to always keep in mind that, as we are not animals of the natural jungle, we can be humans there, and that goes for the Technojungle too. We are continuing to strive to learn about being better human beings and living in the Technojungle.
If you stop and think, you can probably come up with quite a few examples of how technology is used well, and with, little or no seemingly obvious downsides. Technology can certainly help us. What might be the costs of particular technologies? How do we pay?