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Pros and Cons of Technology for Talking and Thinking

Can’t we all just be humans together? Certainly part of being human is the intelligent creation and use of tools, but I want to feel like I’m using them, not turning into one.

What Do You Want to Know?

Recently, while helping Son, who’s in his 20’s, look something up online, we chatted about the value of the research skills of older folks (like me) and the technology smarts of younger folks (like him).

My view is that those of us who are experienced in the ways of card catalogs, paper phone directories, and books that are stored on bookshelves have practices and brain pathways that let us imagine or “see” connections and data relationships that might have more value than those found through the use of algorithms alone.

The desire to think about data, information, or even thinking itself can give you an edge when it comes to finding and identifying meaningful answers, regardless of your speed at using Web search tools themselves.

What Do You Want to Say?

I’d rather have a conversation than “make a speech” any day, and that’s true even though I am a natural “instructor” and can opine on countless topics at the drop of a hat or an eyebrow. So I resisted using PowerPoint for years, until it became clear that conference organizers assumed I was unskilled, a stick in the mud, an anachronism, etc. — or they actually specified PowerPoint as part of the required setup.

Now, thank heaven, there are venues that allow you to declare, “Okay, we’re not going to use PowerPoint for this; we’re just going to talk!” — and watch the attendees’ faces and shoulders relax on hearing the news.

I conducted one of these discussion-style presentations as part of a meeting agenda that included one PowerPoint presentation after another, most of them involving the use of laser pointers.

I had prepared in depth, and organized loads of notes. During the talk, I actually used some of them. I also created a little motion in the room by jumping up to write on an easel, draw a diagram, and annotate it.

I wasn’t locked in to a set piece. I could go where the group members wanted to go, and they didn’t drown in bullet points. (Who wants to be gunned down by a reductive rat-a-tat-tat of information anyway?) We were all quite happy together, generating ideas and figuring things out.

And Who Are You, Again?

I feel fussy about the 473 different account passwords and security questions that I have stored in my computer, my office, and my brain. It all seems like a waste of mental overhead to me.

The balance between staying safe, connected, and sane is becoming more and more tenuous. Instead of memorizing passwords, I would much prefer to work on remembering the names of the people I’ve met, so I can greet them when I see them again.

The real leading question:

Am I the only one who feels this way? Certainly some genius — possibly a withdrawn, anti-social genius — should be able to figure out some better ways to organize and integrate knowledge, interaction, and sense of self?

Onward and upward,


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