Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Don't run over Carl Kruger

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Who is Carl Kruger? He's the New York State Senator who is proposing a bill to "ban gadget use while crossing city streets," as WCBS puts it. Yes, you read that correctly: to ban them. That means you'd have to turn off your iPod, your BlackBerry, or whatever other void-fulfilling electronic device cuts you off from your fellow human beings -- aurally, spiritually -- whenever you wish to walk from one side of the street to another.

They're killers, you see. Or, rather, cars and other vehicles are killers. Or, rather again, the drivers of these vehicles are killers. It just helps to be able to hear the instruments of these killers -- the vehicles -- before they have a chance to kill you. Then you might not be killed.

Kruger explains: "We're talking about people walking sort of tuned in and in the process of being tuned in, tuned out. Tuned out to the world around them. They're walking into speeding cars. They're walking into buses. They're walking into one another and it's creating a number of fatalities that have been documented right here in the city."

Wait. People walking into one another is part of the problem? I can understand the danger posed by not being able to hear cars and buses as they come bearing down on you, but banging into someone?

Now, to be fair, I do find a good deal wrong with the iPodification of our culture, of our civilization. We are indeed tuning out and cutting ourselves off from one another, and -- as in the past, for such is the nature of technology -- we are incorporating these gadgets into our individual senses of self, more accurately into our very selves. Which is to say, they have become, and are increasingly becoming as they become more and more sophisticated, extensions of our being. You are not just you, you are the you with the trendy white gadget with the white cables running to the white buds in your ear. You are the you of your own personal techno-bubble. I have my own gadgets -- although aside from my cell phone I don't generally use them in public -- but I recognize just how unhealthy this phenomenon is.

But what is the use of banning them in this limited way? What is the use of banning them in any way? They are what they are and they're here to stay. And the problem will only get worse. If some of us tune out, so be it. If there are risks associated with the use of such gadgets, so be it. At some point -- and we passed that point a long time ago -- people must be left to navigate the dangers of society on their own. For dangers there will always be. They cannot all be regulated out of existence, even when government takes it upon itself to treat us all like children.

Besides, isn't there something Darwinian about this? If human evolution now means the absorption of technology into the human form, that is, if it means the leap from human to techno-human, shouldn't we rely on natural selection to weed out those who aren't able to survive the transition? If you can't walk down the street listening to your iPod without banging into other people and walking into buses, you may not exactly be a prime candidate for this evolutionary development. You're making an effort, I know, but perhaps your time has passed.

Am I being facetious? Yes. And no. Make up your own minds. If you can tear your atomized selves away from your gadgets for a moment.

[Creature's Note: Michael's words, my cut-and-paste. Ignore all references to me below.]

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