An addicted technophobe; a politician

Written By: - Date published: 1:17 pm, May 18th, 2010 - 10 comments
Categories: humour, Media, Politics, telecommunications - Tags: ,

Apparently, President Obama has delivered a speech ‘ranting’ against technology. The opinion in The Economist is worth a  read just for the joy of reading the hilarity between the lines.

‘WITH iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations—none of which I know how to work—information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment.’ In a speech to students at Hampton University on May 9th, Mr Obama did not just name-check some big brands; he also joined a long tradition of grumbling about new technologies and new forms of media.

As The Economist opinion points out, this is a hilarious when you put it in the context of Obama’s quite evident total addiction to his Blackberry. This is the device that he refused to let his own security to remove from him as being insecure.

The opinion carries on with a long list of similar pronouncements from figure in the past about various communications technologies.

  • Socrates ranting against the use of the new-fangled writing because it would diminish oral traditions.
  • Enos Hitchcock in the 1790 voicing the fears of the older generation about the dangers of publishing novels.
  • “Cinema was denounced as ‘an evil pure and simple’ in 1910”
  • “Comic books were said to lead children into delinquency in 1954”
  • “Rock’n’roll was accused of turning the young into ‘devil worshippers’ in 1956”
  • “Hillary Clinton attacked video games for ‘stealing the innocence of our children’ in 2005.”

Umm, yeah right – I can see all of those and many other similar pronouncements in the past have happened. Sure there have been changes in the way we do things, but the sky still hasn’t fallen in when people have better means to communicate.

Mr Obama is, at least, bang up to date with his reference to the iPad, which now joins the illustrious list of technologies to have been denounced by politicians, and with his grumbling about the crazy theories circulated by the combination of blogs and talk radio. But such Luddism is particularly curious in Mr Obama’s case, given that he is surgically attached to his BlackBerry, his presidential campaign made exemplary use of the internet, and he has used YouTube to great effect to deliver his message directly to viewers, circumventing the mainstream media in the process. Presumably all those are examples of good information (the empowering sort) rather than bad (the distracting or misleading sort).

Yeah right. I can understand the loon factors on the blogs, as I see them every day (or if I read comments at the sewer) . But like all new tech, you get a burst of the crazies for a while and then it will either go under (usenet) , become an enclave that we place the seriously crazed into (talkback radio), or get moderated and tend towards rationality (where some of us are trying to push blogs towards at present).

However I’ve been around or observed politicians for quite a while. They’re (by my standards) total technophobes, in that they avoid just getting into technology for the sheer sake of it. Watching them learning to use technology is an exercise in pain

At the same time they inordinately addicted (by the standards of any normal human) to the technologies that they have painfully learnt to drive. It doesn’t matter if it is fax machines, antique brick phones, or these days those bloody awful blackberries that parliamentary services likes – the politicians can’t bear to have them out of their sight for long.

I haven’t tried this, but I expect that if you want to torment a politician, and you have their cell number – text them while they’re deep in conversation with a constituent. I’d expect the look of polite agony as they’re torn between two addictions could be sadistically entertaining 😈

10 comments on “An addicted technophobe; a politician”

  1. Bored 1

    Lprent, you worry me. Tormenting politicians by use of technology, vicious! As for me, I run technology companies….cant stand the stuff really, gets in the way of doing real stuff. I never take the phone / email device fishing, its of no practical use to the trout.

  2. Zorr 2

    I think that Obamas comment isn’t actually that far out there and isn’t so much in the “technophobe” basket as the “I don’t want to be required to be a technophile to live my daily life” which I feel is a fair opinion.

    There has been an increased desire for a degree of less pervasive technology in our lives and, despite the fact that I live most days on a computer and still love it, I treasure the time that I get away from it and that I have the “geek” room and the rest of the house is one giant break from tech, mostly. May a minotaur come knocking on my door and punch me in the kidneys if I ever complain about having too little tech!

    • Bored 2.1

      My geek mob communicate in mono syllables and binary speak, because they are geeks. Their worst habit is email as a means of auditable communication. I dont use it habitually which they find worrying, I use verbal coms and memory. Interestingly I can survive without the technology, my geeks on the other hand would need to go cold turkey.I am worried that they live in constant fear of power cuts and internet outages.

      • Zorr 2.1.1

        I do live in fear of those because then I would be going cold turkey from my computer which would be difficult.

        But my household tech currently consists of several PCs (not going to delve in to the Mac discussion), a TV, a DVD player and an audio system. My wife and I both have crappy <$100 brand new cellphones and I have a quite expensive MP3 player (because I gots to have my tunes).

        The idea of having multiple gaming systems, 2+ cellphones (as a lot of people I know have) or an iPhone, walking around with "portable processor" attached – undesirable. I tire of people telling me how X thing is great because of Y feature and how I must spend Z dollars on obtaining it.

        Ah well…. rant over

        • Bored 2.1.1.1

          If my fishing rod goes west Im f**ked, bloody technology. Im feeling worried and helpless.

  3. Daveosaurus 3

    Without actually seeing the script of the speech in question, but taking into account the audience it was directed to, I can’t actually fault the sentiment behind it. There’s probably a lot of the younger generation who still have a bit of growing up to do and who haven’t yet worked out that there’s life beyond text messaging and Facebook.

  4. lprent 4

    I was mostly having a stir at politicians who are one of the most tech obsessed groups of people that I know (they make programmers look tame) – and also among the most naturally inept.

    I use a lot of tech all of the time these days. But outside of work it is mostly related to this site and other voluntary work. It is one amongst a range of tools.

  5. Descendant Of Smith 5

    For goodness sake. I’ve been gaming since the spacies parlour days in the 70’s, raised 3 kids, and played rugby and cricket (til I was 40), read lots of books, sat on plenty of committees, organised social clubs, community projects, worked hard at my employment including lots of extra hours.

    I’ve met lots of cool people through gaming as have my kids. I’ve stayed at their places they’ve stayed at mine. I met people overseas I wouldn’t have had contact with otherwise. I have friends and family overseas I can talk to and video conference on one of my Xboxes without any toll calls costs.

    My interest means I can help others out with their PC and networking and gaming issues – and I mix with people of an extremely wide age range cause we all have something in common.

    The Xbox has parental controls where you can automatically set the number of hours use so it stops playing once those hours are reached. Obama would be better off praising for that innovation and encouraging parents to use it.

    The biggest sacrifice is that I watch less TV than I used to and I read less than I used to. All I’ve really done is swap one sort of leisure activity for another. Gaming is both more active and more people orientated than either TV or reading – neither of which allows me to spend time with others while partaking of in anywhere near the same way.

    On the other hand I detest cellphones. I see no reason why phone companies should be siphoning off hard earned cash from young people or why they need to be on call 24/7. There’s not that much that is that important that needs to be replied to straightaway. Email is both less and more productive – better and faster communication but also means that idiotic thoughts and queries someone wouldn’t have rung you for or walked to you to ask now become realised and expectant rather than buried inside the head that should never have thought of them in the first place.

    Ahhh there’s good and bad in all these things. Each to their own.

    I do suspect though that movies / TV feel threatened by the gaming technologies – it is for most people a swap in leisure activities not an addition to and this must impact on advertising revenue streams for instance.

    Most importantly my wife can send me a message from her laptop to my Xbox to say she needs a hot milk and I can make her one without her needing to get out of bed. Microsoft certainly got that one right.

  6. Technology has the potential to destroy workers jobs all over the world. It is a crucial part of capitalism. Just look at self serve machines in Pak n Save, what is going to happen when they no longer need checkout operators? More profit for the Bourgeoisie, these are the ones in our society who do not need extra. Then watch our unemployment soar.

    Technology does do amazing things in our society but we should always be mindful of what effect it will have on industrial relations and the equality gap.

    • Daniel Webster 6.1

      Yeah, goddamn technology ruining everything. Just look at what happened to the scribing industry when they invented the printing press. Send em’ to the scrap heap, I say. There’s no better way to fight the Bourgeoisie than by performing rudimentary tasks as inefficiently as possible.

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