December 14, 2019

Is Your Information Costing Too Much?

Posted on 16. May, 2011 by Administrator in Social/Cultural

Mention the information age and everybody under 30 swoons and goes into happy-time convulsions. These are the same folks that have a Blackberry, an IPAD, a laptop, a desktop computer, an IPOD, GPS system and satellite TV and radio. I’m not averse to technology.  I took my first computer course back in 1966 and worked on an old IBM 360 computer (the monster could barely fit in a two-car garage; today we have the same computing power in our laptop computers).

I got a CB radio when I was driving long distances because I thought it would help locate speed traps and avoid accidents. What it actually did was save my life back in the 70s when I began to fall asleep at the wheel and a kindly trucker shouted at me through my speaker, jolting me awake.  I bought a cellphone back in 1985 and have had one ever since. My car has GPS and satellite radio, so what’s the deal?

I’m simply astounded at what all this stuff is costing us. On a yearly basis, I spend the following: ABQ Journal newspaper subscription: approx. $150 (with the tip to the carrier), satellite TV: $1,200, satellite radio: approx. $300 for two cars, DSL high-speed line: approx. $500, email service: $200, mobilephones (one with internet connectivity): approx. $2,000, home telephone: $250/year, my computer modem (for accessing the internet when I’m not near a WiFi connection): approx. $200, magazine subscriptions: approx. $100, software to protect our computers (so that we can get the information): $60. That totals $4,960. That number does not include the hardware costs of the various appliances that use those services nor the electricity that powers them. I’m sure that if you add those in the total would be at least 10-15% higher!

Our new information age companies and their technology are helping us get more and more information every year, and manufacturers are wooing us with smarter and zippier products, and we’re buying them at amazingly high rates. I have a feeling that Americans can now append another description to ‘Land of the free, home of the brave.’ Now we can call ourselves, ‘Land of the early adopters and information junkies.’  I guess I would ask a question at this point, ‘What are we doing with all this information?’ Are we getting smarter from all of this info or are we just getting better at oneupsmanship (beating out our friends at emailing news to one another, gleaned from a blog, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook or some other moronic electronic watercooler)?

I remember a time when folks on my paper route waited near their door for me to throw them their morning newspaper (usually in their bushes), so that they could settle in with today’s news and a cup of hot java. Our telephone then was on a party line, and our neighbors regularly listened in.  Today it would be the equivalent of having the phone on ‘speaker’ setting and sitting in crowded waiting room while you blabbed about Uncle Mortimer’s gall bladder operation and his affair with Beatrice from the coffee shop. Our TV signed off at midnight with the playing of the national anthem as we watched the American flag wave in the electronic breeze just before the test pattern with a likeness of an Indian chief appeared.

In many ways those were simpler times because we weren’t privy to so much information. Our ignorance was bliss. Cataclysmic events from the other side of the world took their sweet time to reach us, but when they did, we were mortified and shocked. Today, I think the shock has been replaced with a feeling of, ‘what’s next’ (as President Josiah Bartlet of the West Wing used to say). I’m afraid our national compassion has been replaced with a short attention span due in no small measure to the deluge of mind-numbing information.

Stephan Helgesen is a retired diplomat and former Director of the State of NM Office of Science and Technology. He can be reached at: stephanhelgesen@cs.com.

 

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