The World in Your Pocket

at 12:35 AM

My friend Paul is really upset. He just got the latest version of one of those highly hyped smart phones, the one that drops calls. He's already lost two calls, and he's hopping mad. But he isn't nearly as upset as Kathy. Her ultra-portable netbook takes almost a full minute to connect to the Internet.

And what about Marvin, disgusted by that touch screen tablet device he just bought, complaining that he can't always instantly download a video, since the device famously lacks a certain software. And they're not the only ones. World-weary Chris, groaning about his new computer, that pre-historic TCP optimizer and the annoyingly slow QoS connection.

I've been listening, trying to feel their pain. But as I listen, nodding sympathetically, all I can think is: they are missing the miracle. Looking around at these devices, at this George Jetson meets Maxwell Smart life we lead, I am amazed. I am just awestruck that as I walk down the street I am able to retrieve practically the entire knowledge of the human race on a tiny smart phone I shove in my pocket. I am dumbfounded that anyone with a laptop can access the complete Library of Congress. I am blown away that, at 3:00 in the morning, I can instantly find almost any book, or song, or article that ever existed.

And, yes, I get that sometimes it doesn't work perfectly or that it takes longer than five seconds. But how did we lose sight of the fact that these devices, flaws and all, are absolutely miraculous? When did we get so jaded about technology that we began to focus on what there isn't, rather than what there is?

I wish everyone would look up from the screen and realize the breathtaking fact of life in 2010: each of us holds the world in the palm of our hand. It's not that it doesn't work perfectly, it's extraordinary that it works at all.

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And as I told Paul, you lost two calls. But what about the 53 calls you did get, instantly, magically, through thin air? What about those? But he wasn't listening. Maybe I should call him on his smart phone to tell him.

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With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

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