One of my favorite places to eat in South Park is Hamilton’s Café. Some of the best bar food I’ve had, to be honest, and I’ve even ran a few bar kitchens myself. I’m not saying I’m some kind of Gordon Ramsay of bar food but still, I like to think I know good bar food from bad bar food.

Tonight I stepped around the corner to Hamilton’s to get an order of their wings. Love ‘em. Can’t get enough of them. While I waited for them to cook I stepped outside for a smoke. Outside the bar portion of Hamilton’s is a random scattering of souls ranging from trendy folk trying to be hip at a not-so-posh kinda place and dread-locked misfits with more holes in their face than nature intended, smoking because they can’t inside, and all of them seemingly speaking their own language.

There was one thing a majority of them seemed to have in common, though, and that was how techno-savvy they were. At least half of them were staring at the face of their phone with the glare of the screen highlighting their brow furrowed with concentration. Some of them were even smiling.

I got in a conversation with a small group of people regarding a group of bands- Suicidal Tendencies, Pantera, and Damageplan. The topic of Dimebag Darrell, the guitarist/co-founder of Pantera and Damageplan, came up and how he was shot and killed five years ago on stage in Ohio. One of the people I was speaking with couldn’t remember the name of his band Damageplan as she was telling her Dimebag Darrell story (because apparently, we all have one). So instead of stalling the story and trying to remember the name of the band, she just continued. But that didn’t stop another person in the group from whipping out his phone and looking up the name of the band.

“Damageplan!” he drunkenly slurred-screamed out as if he won a contest of who could remember the name of the band the fastest.

So the conversation continued for a few more minutes until one of us simply stated, “People are crazy.” They returned to the confines of Hamilton’s, surely to imbibe more after the topic we were discussing. I remained outside until my wings were done and just eavesdropped on other conversations. Then it happened again.

In a conversation, someone shouted out, “Mr. Bill! Mr. Bill! Oh no!!!” in the high-pitch voice required to mimic the sketch. Yet none of them could remember where this sketch originated. Saturday Night Live, I quickly remembered. A minute later, after a search on his phone, a member of the group said, “Saturday Night Live.” His friends smiled and nodded along, the light-bulb having been switched on for them.

When my wings were done, I walked back around the corner to my apartment, awed the entire time at how information is so damn readily available these days. Literally at your fingertips. And you could be standing outside of a bar trying to clear the alcoholic haze from your head or stuck in an elevator on the 32nd floor. It doesn’t matter. As long as you’re connected, the information is there.

But I think there’s a downside to all of this, and that is how vulnerable we are because of this ability to quickly retrieve information. First, if what keeps us so close to information suddenly breaks down, then what? Will people even know what to do? We’ve been so conditioned to be so attached. Second, the laziness factor comes into play. I was once at a minor-league baseball game with my ex-wife and a large group of her friends. The entire group was split in two and each half was situated on opposite sides of the stadium. However, minor-league stadiums are relatively small in comparison to the major stadiums like Petco Park. In fact, from where we were sitting, we could actually see the other group. During the third inning or so, my ex-wife wanted to make plans with the other group to make sure we knew where to all meet up after the game. She reached into her purse and pulled out her phone. I informed her that it’s a three minute walk to go over to them and I even visually pointed out exactly where they were sitting. “Why walk over there when I can just call them?” was her reply.

And that’s when it hit me- our society, if not a large portion of the human race, is heading down a very dangerous path of apathy and laziness. And all because if we want to know something but want to put in only the minimal amount of effort required, we can get away with that because of how easy it is.

Not to sound like Del Spooner, the main character from I, Robot, but if you’re not skeptical and even a little bit frightened of technology, you should be. You see, technology is in human hands and as our brains get bigger, so do the risks. That applies to everyone everywhere, even me here in little ol' South Park.

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Comments

David Dodd Dec. 19, 2009 @ 2:01 a.m.

Well, as someone who owns a cell phone (it was required at my last job) but does not use (it isn't even activated anymore), I agree. But the internet is otherwise a very useful tool. My thirty-year-old set of encyclopedia is out of date (no more Soviet Union, for example). Maybe we accept the good with the bad? I'm conflicted, but willing to consider it.

The other evening, my wife used her cell phone to call our daughter upstairs and inform her that dinner was ready. But my wife also pays some bills online which is convenient, cheap, and very green.

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CuddleFish Dec. 19, 2009 @ 9:27 a.m.

Mr. Bill is older than Saturday Night Live. It comes from a children's show, as I recall.

Your topic is a familiar one, of course. We are always concerned, as human beings, that we've created a monster. And then it turns out we are resourceful enough to manage the beast.

This may be different, though. Let me see if I can find an article I read and post the link here, can't at the moment.

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CuddleFish Dec. 19, 2009 @ 11:05 a.m.

Okay, am back from breakfast with my son, now my brain is functioning. I remembered the name of the columnist and even the column, The Outsourced Brain:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/26/opinion/26brooks.html

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Adam92102 Dec. 19, 2009 @ 11:08 a.m.

Thank you all for the Mr. Bill correction. I guess I should have done my research, hunh? I just remember him from SNL but I also was born the same year SNL started so what does this young'un know? Ha.

Gringo, I definitely agree that the internet is useful. Hell, even in my paragraph above I should have hopped on Wiki or something and looked up Mr. Bill. If I were having a conversation with people 20 years ago about Mr. Bill and wasn't sure of the history behind Mr. Bill, I would have had to go to a library. So yes, internet is useful. I guess it's just a technology that exploded on to the scene so damn fast and it keeps getting more and more advanced. And it doesn't seem like that will slow down any time soon. I guess I'm not worried about the technology itself. I'm worried about the technology in human hands.

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a2zresource Dec. 19, 2009 @ 12:39 p.m.

I could have caught the Orange Line to downtown, transferred to the Blue Line, then walked a couple of blocks to leave you a message regarding my personal laziness at the Reader offices on India Street (http://www.sandiegoreader.com/places/...), but opted to leave a comment via Internet instead...

Isn't there a dive of a bar in town named "The Office"?

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MsGrant Dec. 19, 2009 @ 2:06 p.m.

It used to be Scolari's Office. A dive of epic proportions. Then it sold out.

http://entertainment.signonsandiego.com/places/office/

Regarding technology and the effect on the brain: We have evolved more and been required to process so much information in the past 100 years than in any time in history. Our brains were not equipped to handle this and the result is burnout, stress, chemical dependency and the advent of anti-depressants. There is a low-level fear engulfing most in developed countries that we are never doing quite enough. Who has not purchased a new gadget only to have it languish on a shelf because its capabilities exceeded your ability or even your desire to read the book and view the CD that contained its instructions for use?

Here's to the Luddites!!

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antigeekess Dec. 19, 2009 @ 5:31 p.m.

"You see, technology is in human hands and as our brains get bigger..."

On the contrary, I'd say it's causing our brains to atrophy at an alarming rate. Even the lowly calculator has contributed greatly to this downhill trend. How many people can do any math at all without one? When was the last time you came across a cashier at a store who could make change?

As if we weren't being made stupid enough by televeggin' already.

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MsGrant Dec. 19, 2009 @ 5:50 p.m.

Yes, our brains are not getting bigger like they did during the evolution of man to self-sustaining beings. Technology is causing brain overload. It is not because it is making us lazy. Quite the contrary. It is requiring us to process too much information in too short a time. Our brains are screwed. I do math in my head. Rainman, anyone?

Anti, you may be referring to those that were fortunate enough to avoid the crush of technology as a means of income. Scanning groceries? Nirvana.

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CuddleFish Dec. 19, 2009 @ 7:37 p.m.

Actually, there's some evidence that I.Q.'s are rising.

This fear of scientific advancement overwhelming us is a natural process, from what I've read. Frankenstein came out of the fear of electricity, Godzilla from the fear of nuclear power, the Borg came out of the fear of technology. Each new level of scientific advancement gives us feeble human beings the heebie-jeebies.

On the other hand, the Unabomber may have had a point.

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rickeysays Dec. 19, 2009 @ 11:47 p.m.

Most people are idiots, and deevolution is like a snowball rolling downhill, picking up speed as it goes, so if technology can help the idiots act a little smarter, I'm all for it. The cashier at McDonalds needing only to push the button with the cheeseburger, instead of having to ring something up, gets me my burger faster and cheaper.

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PistolPete Dec. 20, 2009 @ 6:48 p.m.

1-As a sometimes cashier, I still count back change. I get two types of comments. The first one comes from people younger than me. "You short changed me." The second one comes from people older than me. "How nice of you to make sure you didn't short change either myself or your drawer." See the difference? How hard is it to say, "Okay. The 57 cents I just gave you makes $3,the next dollar makes $4, the next dollar makes $5, the five dollar bill I give you makes $10 and the ten dollar bill I give you makes the original $20 you gave me"? I HATE it when some dumb blond teenager gives me my change with a smile. I count it out there just to make them confused. Someone taught me to count back. I've tried to teach those very same dumb blondes how to count back. Think it worked with any success?

2-If humans ARE getting dumber with advanced technology, is this a bad thing? Isn't this just nature's way of self-correcting it's own retardation? I'll be the first to admit that I'm impulsive and self-centered sometimes but I've also noticed that as I drink alcohol less and less and have cut drugs from my life, I'm also CONSTANTLY two steps ahead. While typing that last sentence, I was thinking about what I'm going to watch after Sunday Night Football in almost an hour and a half. 10-15 years ago, I never would've cared about that short into the future.

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antigeekess Dec. 22, 2009 @ 7:52 p.m.

Interestingly, MsGrant wrote this comment on Sat, December 19:

Re #9: "Technology is causing brain overload. It is not because it is making us lazy. Quite the contrary. It is requiring us to process too much information in too short a time. Our brains are screwed. I do math in my head. Rainman, anyone?"

Kim Peek, the real "Rain Man" died that day. But the earliest media report of it that I can find is dated yesterday. Did you see an earlier report?

Here's the mini-blog entry I just posted about it: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/antigeekess/2009/dec/22/feels-like-rain

But with regard to the original subject, if technology is leading to an increase in I.Q., I'd argue that it's only helpful to development of a very particular type of I.Q. that falls within very narrow parameters.

It sure ain't helpin' common sense none.

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SDaniels Jan. 15, 2010 @ 2:28 a.m.

You had a great thread run here, Adam. Now, what happened to you? I guess you and Pike knocked over Pizza Fusion, and ran away to start a gourmet bar food emporium and drinkery? Come back, you scoundrels! And bring Stella back with you!

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