You’ve Jott to be Kidding Me!

Posted on April 18, 2008


So, my friend sent me the coolest new technology, and I just have to share. Jott allows you to email, text, blog, add items to your Google calendar, and even surf all from talking into your phone. And, it’s all FREE!

So, there are some cultural and anthropological implications to this continuing technology. I muse.

The advent of the cell phone and other address book applications have eliminated any need for numbers. I use to have a bunch of numbers memorized, of friends, family, emergency services, etc. Now, all I have is names. Go ahead, try calling your sister from a pay phone and see how that works. There’s no “sister” button on the key pad.

The wonders of Bluetooth have even eliminated my need to dial. “Call, mom, mobile.” My blackberry replies, “Calling.” Who needs a keypad anymore?

Now with Jott, we’ve gone one small step further with the question, Who needs to type letters? I simply activate Bluetooth with one button and, “Call, Jott. Mom,” then I just say my message and it’s fully transcripted (fairly accurately I might add), and sent to her email and phone via text. No more thumbs, and no more typing. I just searched Amazon for “Constantine’s Sword,” from my Blackberry, using my voice, and about three minutes later, there was an email in my inbox with several editions ready to be clicked on and purchased.

What does this mean? A few thoughts.

I’m going to suggest that our cognitive conscious, collectively and individually, will continually grow duller as the technological conscious grows sharper. I’m hesitant to fully buy into a futuristic cyborg reality, but I will say, I sense that we may not be that far off. Some have even suggested that we’re already there, just not in the highly electronic sense of the “Terminator” series. For example, many people have prosthetics, manufactured organs, and even contact lenses. How is this not “cyborgian” in some way? And, throw in the amazing advances in AI (Artificial Intelligence). Some of the stuff emerging now is just crazy (like this Big Dog). As we grow more and more dependent upon (and amazed at) the technologies that we develop, I just wonder if we’re not killing ourselves — our minds, and our ability to process, retain, and recall information — by a thousand cuts of little bits of technology like Jott.

The other detriment with that is perhaps more scary. We are collectively becoming more dependent upon technologies and we are therefore inevitably more vulnerable. I say often, as I’m sure you would, “my life is on my computer.” What would happen if I ever lost my Blackberry? How could I function if I ever had to go back to paper? Well, these questions are a bit ridiculous, given. But there are very pertinent realities here as well, for all of us are becoming more and more dependent upon these technologies for communication, community, and commerce (wow, that alliteration was not intended…really!) Any breach in these systems could cause upheaval in the substance of our existence.

The growing dissatisfaction and shortening of collective patience also comes to mind. Barry Schwartz’s book, The Paradox of Choice, seems apropos to this point. The more we have available to us, the less satisfied we are with the results. And, the more technology advances, the more dissatisfied we are with the older models and developments. A bit of historical perspective is really critical here. I’m reminded of a piece called “Compressing the Ages:”

As a graphic presentation of the increasing rate at which changes in industry are occurring, J. Lewis Powell compressed the (alleged) 50,000 years of mankind’s recorded history into 50 years, and on this basis developed the following chronology: 1) ten years ago man left his cave for some other kind of dwelling; 2) five years ago writing was invented; 3) two years ago Christianity appeared; 4) fifteen months ago Gutenberg developed the printing press; 5) ten days ago electricity was discovered; 6) yesterday morning the airplane was invented; 7) last night, radio; 8) this morning, television; 9) the jet airplane was invented less than a minute ago. [1]

The final observation is that all of this continually exacerbates egoistic comfort, the selfish sense of right, and the diminishing value of personal responsibility. The more technological tools we have to utilize in the three “C’s” listed above, the more things we have to point our finger at to explain shortcomings, “Oh, email was down,” or “I was in a bad area of service.” Technology has a way of justifying self-observation and heightening our irritation at dysfunctional tools (and people). And, the more technology serves us, the more we come to expect that kind of service as normative for living, rather than wonderfully surprising. All of this can slowly strip us of our joy, our delight, and our ability to live life to the fullest; we get so distracted by means of living, we seldom reap the ends or fruits of true life. I guess technology can truly be “de-humanizing” to some degree.

I don’t mean to sound glum or “doomsdayish.” As I mentioned, I just muse. I simply wonder (and I’m no futurist or prophet) how this will all play out.

[1] Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : [a treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers]. Garland TX: Bible Communications.