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March 20, 2017

Tech-NO-logy

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The use of the word technology has increased exponentially over the last three decades, reaching 3446 trillion uses in 2016, by Bono alone. When you add the number of times Justin Timberlake gushes about technology, you are talking about a quadrillion. And yet, despite all the whoopla about technology, it took a little known person to discover the big NO in the middle of tech-NO-logy: me. I am, to quote James Comey, incredulous.

An etymological exploration of the word tech-NO-logy revealed that its inventor had implanted into the word two secret meanings that only recently have become apparent. The first is that some people who use tech have NO logic, and the second is that there is NO logic in some tech products.

I have incontestable proof of the first meaning. My wife and I are taking an online course. The technology is so simple that even the two of us can get it. To connect to the course you have to do two things: click on a link embedded in an email, and insert your phone number in an interactive window that screams at you from the screen and almost grabs your iphone from your hand. It is that simple. Yet, every class there are about twenty people, which is about fifty percent of the class, who have difficulties connecting. The reason I know this is because there is a chat window where people write their difficulties getting connected. Although the instructors clearly guide folks to use a private chat if they are having technical difficulties, none of the technically challenged get that far, clogging the chat box with inane questions and comments.

The chat box is supposed to be used by students and instructors for Q and A. However, at any point in time during the class, which deals with health and wellness, the chat box on the computer screen looks something like this:

Participant 1: Can you elaborate on the relationship between oxytocin and stress regulation in people with depression?

Participant 2: I’m having trouble connecting through my phone. I’m in Timbuktu and the signal is weak. What can I do?

Instructor 1: Oxytocin works differently among various populations….

Participant 3: I don’t understand the connection between early attachment forms and late onset borderline personality disorder.

Participant 4: Is it true that sexual drive increases following a lobotomy? I was thinking of ordering one for my husband.

Participant 5: My phone number is 437-557-0981, can you please merge me?

Instructor 2: Try dialing the local number: 800-367-0943

Participant 2: I tried it, but the person who answered spoke only Swahili.

Instructor 2: Read the damn instructions in red bold letters on the screen!

In addition to my technologically challenged peers in the online course, I recently came across another group of users with tech difficulties. It was the first time that I flew Virgin America, and I discovered that you can order drinks and snacks from your screen. The instructions are idiot- proof, but I witnessed the flight attendants explaining to technically clueless passengers, again and again, how to order a coke. The flight attendants were doing their very best to keep their cool, but truth be told, I was getting exasperated on their behalf.

Now there is a group of users who get how to use technology, but when they do, there is NO logic to what they say. Take twitter for example. Some people in this country get up early on Saturdays and start twitting things that are more bizarre than the chat box in my online course.

The second meaning of NO in the word tech-NO-logy has to do with lack of logic in some tech products. A certain financial institution that cannot be named due to fear of lawsuits, claims to be the most user friendly in the country. However, its website forgets you if you don’t use the portal often enough, and its telephone system engages you in a Kafkaesque loop designed to increase sales of psychotropic drugs.

The reason I feel so superior nowadays when it comes to technology is because I trained Siri and my Xfinity remote control to understand my accent. Now I can talk to Siri and she actually gets me. I can say things like “who is Isaac Prilleltensky” and she promptly replies “I found two links to Isaac Prilleltensky.” In the past, the only thing I could get out of Siri was “can you repeat that?” Now I can also issue orders like “start closed caption” and “show Downton Abbey” to my remote control and it obeys every command.

I also learned how to use Waze, which took me, for the first time ever, from Coral Gables to the Health district in downtown Miami, in less than 30 minutes during rush hour. What’s next for me in tech? I’m helping the CIA with the counterattack on WikiLeaks. There is no telling what I’m doing after that.

 

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