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Technology today

04/24/07 12:00AM By Mike Martin
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(HOST) Commentator Mike Martin recently found out that our phones will soon replace our credit cards, our cameras, and even our kids' toys. He's been thinking about what fast-changing technology means for us.

(MARTIN) Some people just aren't impressed by technology. Take my wife for example. Whenever I stare at a plane flying overhead, she says, "Cheri, that's a plane. Haven't you ever seen one before?" That's usually when I realize I'm squinting into the sky, mouth agape, looking like the village idiot. Still, tons of steel floating through the blue is impressive. And when, for only a few hundred dollars, you can change continents, climates, cultures, and time zones, it's pretty amazing. We don't always think about it, but jet airplanes are some powerful technology.

It would seem that new advances in technology are coming so fast now that they've become invisible. With so many new gadgets and conveniences, we don't even notice the changes anymore. For instance, ten years ago, who'd have thought we'd take more pictures with phones than with cameras? And tech companies are promising to add so many new functions to phones this year that your ring tones and videos will soon feel as fresh as VHS and 8-track tapes.

Just recently, the French news channel, France 2 (deux), reported that, for the first time, you can buy a pizza with your phone. I don't mean using your credit card over the phone; I mean your phone is the credit card. Since March 20, in Belgium you can pay for your take-out, your cab fare, or your doctor's visit with your cell phone, for twenty-five Euro cents per transaction. And now cell phone companies are going after a new, lucrative market: the eight to twelve year-old demographic. Since many adults act like ten year-olds with their cell phones, you may not notice the change, but what about our kids? Will they be any safer or smarter with these new tech toys? Of course, parents will feel better about being able to speed-dial their babies no matter where they are, but what a bummer to have your folks on the line when you're in your tree fort or talking to a cute girl on the playground. Maybe new technologies will actually make our children less autonomous and less independent. And since research shows that multi-tasking can be counter-productive at work and dangerous near traffic, these new gadgets might not increase anyone's safety.

Still, there's reason to be hopeful about new technology and our children. When I see my eleven year-old son, Joshua, typing his own screenplay on our desktop for a movie he's going to shoot and edit on the computer with his buddies, I can't help but think he's already smarter than I ever was. And when we download music together, and then go watch the bands online, it's so much easier than digging through stacks of vinyl like I had to - so I guess he'll be more sophisticated than I was too. Technology is moving so fast now we hardly even notice it, much less think about it - but what a great time to be a kid.

Ah...to be ten again...

Mike Martin writes about issues of culture and education and teaches French at Champlain Valley Union High School.

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