Thursday, January 8, 2009

That word doesn't mean what you think it means.

I personally don’t think I’ve earned the “Luddite” reputation most people outside my immediate family have bestowed on me. I just dislike using more advanced technology than I have to (the fewer the parts, the fewer things to go wrong), and I don’t feel the need to make my face, location, and latest mishap public.

This has led to…interesting events I doubt would have happened to a more connected person.

I baffled at least two roommates by not having a MySpace or Facebook page for them to investigate before we met face to face, but I didn’t actively attempt to take down either website or trash the computers they were using to (try to) look me up. This led to quite a few misidentifications and baffled people with my name wondering who the hell from Big State University was trying to look them up as a roommate when they had already graduated from University of Faraway State.

That was when I first heard the term “Luddite” applied to me. That honestly perplexed me. I don’t run around actively destroying anything more advanced than last century’s technology. I just read about it in the newspaper and then move on, reminding myself to wait for the final verdict about its use and for the gadget to hit a more reasonable price if it looks like something I'd want to have.

I’ve gotten stranger names applied to me. The most memorable was being called “Connor”, as in the hero of the Terminator series who’s living so far off the grid that the grid is just a distant blip on the horizon. So is sanity, towards the end of those movies, but I digress.

Allow me to clarify.

I’m wary of GMOs in the food chain or as potential organ donors and new health treatments that declare themselves to be the best things invented since the wheel, but can never seem to point to any studies from reputable sources that back up their claims. While these are necessary advancements, I don’t want to be included in the first mass case study where the people pushing the technology find out that “laboratory conditions” do not equal “what the real world will dish out.”

I’d rather not find out the hard way that they spliced cat genes into whatever sheep gave up its wool for my sweater, or that salmon is showing up in my potato patch when I didn’t toss a rotten fish in there myself as fertilizer. You have to prove it’s worth the trouble before I’ll bite.

Just because most of my birthday “would like, but isn’t a necessity” wishes come out of a non-electric catalog doesn’t mean that I’m going to give up running water or modern medical treatment. I’m not yelling “stop!” That’s pure idiocy. I’m just asking “Are you sure this is such a hot idea?”

Some people would think being next to immortal is the best idea humanity’s come up with, but I can’t figure out anything beneficial to do on a rainy day. Machines that enhance human performance? The possibility that one day the phrase “ghost in the machine” won’t just refer to rogue programming? I feel like a cyborg already, and all I have is two fillings, an anti-grinding device, and glasses so anything beyond arm’s reach isn’t an amorphous fuzzy blob.

And the idea of implants making you better than you were before they were buried in your skin gets under mine for reasons that are hard to put into words. I can’t help wondering what we’re leaving behind in our race to be the best of the next generation.

But I’m not going to destroy your technology just because it scares me. I want you to think about what you’re doing. I know you can’t see every consequence, but please think ahead. That’s all.

And I want you to fully understand what a word means before you use it. All right? It’s a pet peeve of mine that people use Spell Check and synonyms the computer suggests more than they use the dead-tree version of a dictionary or a thesaurus these days.

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