Tech has changed our lives in so many ways. Two areas that interest me are our thoughts about knowledge itself, and our experience of solitude.
I used to like the game show Jeopardy and even tried out for it. I flew to Los Angeles for the day and passed the test when my daughter was five months old, proving to myself that my brain hadn't totally gone to mush. I didn't get called to be on the show, but the tryout was still a good experience.
But now, with Google and smart phones, we have all that information at our fingertips, so who cares whether we can memorize facts any more? The LA Times had a funny article about this, "The risk for Apple iPhone users: They know too much." Being a know-it-all quickly becomes annoying, especially when you cut into a good-natured bull session about what year a Springsteen album was released by looking it up on Wikipedia.
What about the experience of solitude? Mobile phones connect us like never before. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it made me realize that we are losing the experience of truly being on our own. The second story that got me thinking about these issues this week was The Wall Street Journal article, "Mom called and said, 'Slow down!'" I remember getting my driver's license and feeling the rush of freedom that I was on my own, alone. Now there are detailed monitoring systems that parents can install, including GPS, systems that will send parents text messages when their teen drivers speed, and multiple camera options for car interior and windshield view.
This potentially transforms the experience of being a new driver. I don't know yet how I feel about these systems. As much as I relished my independence as a teen, I was a bad driver initially and I am lucky that I didn't have a serous accident. Teen drivers definitely need to develop skill and earn trust. We want them to develop experience, while avoiding life-threatening situations. The WSJ article profiled a 16-year-old girl whose parents had nagged her to wear her seat belt, based on the DriveCam system's video evidence that she was not buckling up. Two weeks later, the girl rolled the car, totaling it, but she was only slightly injured because she was wearing her seat belt.
Teens need to earn trust, parents need to give responsibility. I believe that the teens should at least know they are being monitored. Such a system might be an angel on the shoulder, or a Big Brother nightmare, but either way, teens are not on their own they way they used to be.