Don’t talk to your phone (or the trees)

Doing so makes you dumber than your phone (and the trees)

I remember the days of lifting the black handset off the black rotary dialer to hear the operator say, “Nommer asseblief!”

You might wonder what she said, so I’ll tell you. She asked me which party I wanted her to connect me to. (In those days, talking to a person you could not see was as good as a party. Hence the terminology.)

Some of you probably wonder what a rotary dialer is, so I’ll tell you. It’s the black box that we used to contact a human operator who would then connect us to the person, I mean party, with whom we wished to communicate.

There are two other interesting facts about that communication process. Our only privacy concern was whether the operator was bored enough to bother listening in on our conversation.

The other fact has become more important today. Back then we were smarter than the black box.

Always on makes your day off

Can you hear me now? (free public domain:

Do people seem a little off lately? Do you feel a little off? Here’s why, I think. Being always on.

Smart phones and MP3 players have filled what Pink Floyd called the “empty spaces where we used to talk.”

Surely, we connect and nurture relationships through talking. And we resolve personal issues and make decisions through self-talk.

But plugging your ears with sound buds stops you hearing yourself think and thus prevents you connecting with yourself. George Carlin understood this on a deep level, as he explained: “The reason I talk to myself is that I’m the only one whose answers I accept.”

Clearly, Clint Eastwood did not understand this. He once sang “I talk to the trees, but they don’t listen to me.” Sorry, Mr. Eastwood, it matters not that they listen. It matters that you listen. To yourself.

That’s how you make your day.

Smart enough to know GPS is a dot, not a direction

Smart enough to know his bearings. (free public domain:

My wife takes the long way home. She says that she enjoys driving. That’s nonsense. She gets lost, even driving home.

So I bought her a GPS. Surprisingly, it could not find home either, even though home has been standing since 1949. I bought her a different make. It found home, but in a roundabout way. I discovered it was set to direct her home via the nearest highways.

When I grew up, we used the tried and tested sun method to give us a general direction. No obstacle was really an obstacle as long as we did not lose our bearings.

Kids today are growing up with no sense of direction. When their smart phone is feeling disconnected, then they are lost in more ways than one. Minor detours become insurmountable obstacles.

Me? I am seldom lost because when I was a kid, we had to be the smart ones.

The smarter your phone, the dumber you are

Now where did I put my smart phone? (free public domain:

Did you know that the smarter your phone, the dumber you are? I didn’t know that either until I made it up. Even though I made it up, I suspect there is some truth in it.

The more we rely on technology, the less we bother to think for ourselves. The less we think, the more our ability to reason withers away. The less we reason, the more we blindly rely on technology. The more we trust technology, the less often we do basic sanity checks.

Without basic sanity checks, errors creep in, mistakes happen and failure follows.

Not so long ago, technology was held in check by a skeptical generation. I once watched an older boss use a calculator to add the figures in a budget column, frown, and check the result by adding the column mentally. He would never have blindly steered wherever his GPS instructed.

Do I have a smart phone? Of course I do!

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.