Upgrades

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Apple launched the new iPhone last week and I’m sure there are thousands of people who can hardly wait to have their own.  I can appreciate how technology has improved over the years and the role that it now plays in our lives.  What I can’t understand is the compulsion that we have to always have the best and newest technology, whether we need it or not.

I’m willing to bet that only 10% of iPhone users need it in their lives.  Very few people need to be connected 24 hours in a day.  Very few people need access to the internet or their email immediately.  Most messages can wait.  In fact, we’re bombarded with so much information that we cannot fully absorb these and might even be missing out on the really important things because we are so preoccupied with superficial stuff.

I’m very much concerned with our consumerist culture which makes us want to buy, buy, buy.  Companies have fed this culture by developing products that make us want to acquire more and more.  And what happens to the gadgets that are still useful?  Trash.  So much trash is generated in the manufacture of these products and they end up being trash themselves in a matter of years.  Most of the gadgets can be considered consumable now and will be obsolete or have to be replaced in a few years.

Of course these gadgets make life more convenient.  But the lives that are being improved by these stuff are already easy and comfortable.  I would rather that technology be used to really help people whose lives are in dire circumstances.  But then there is no profit in that, no recognition, no fame.

But what if every person why buys an iPhone when they have a perfectly working phone, instead use that money towards causes that try to eliminate poverty, hunger, illiteracy?  I’m sure that money would be better spent and would really help people.  Isn’t it better to upgrade people’s lives than upgrade our gadgets?

I’m hoping that technological advances could be used for more practical purposes.  Hopefully engineers can figure out ways to protects crops from drought and flooding.  Hopefully they would find ways to bring clean water and electricity to remote areas that have no access to it.  Hopefully they would create houses that can withstand floods, typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis.

Our lives are so comfortable that we forget that there are only three basic needs, food (and water), shelter and clothing.  Everything else is extra.

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Manual Labor

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Our printer had gone to printer heaven months ago but we haven’t replaced it yet.  We seldom print anything at home so it wasn’t really an issue.

Yesterday, though, Jari had an assignment for school that he needs to type and print out.  Good thing my mom has a typewriter that we can borrow.

It was the first time my kids had seen and used a typewriter.  Actually, it wasn’t too bad since it was an electric typewriter and you didn’t have to pound on the keys, unlike the manual typewriters I’ve used when I was younger.

So after Jari wrote what he had to type, Jon taught him how to use the typewriter.  He liked the experience of typing but of course kept on making mistakes.  After an hour and lots of paper wasted, Jon finally did it for him.  I know, I know, we shouldn’t do our children’s homework.  But he did write it himself and he did try.  It was getting late though and he needs his sleep and we also have to save the trees. 🙂

I remember back in high school, I had to type several papers using a manual typewriter.  In fact, now that I look back, I also used a typewriter for papers in college (I just dated myself).  I literally went through reams of bond paper to make reports.  And I hated having to put in footnotes because I had to manually adjust the roller to put in the footnote numbers.  And you had to be mindful of the margins, etc, etc.

Young people don’t know how easy they have it now.  They can research online instantly instead of poring through card catalogs in the library, finding the books, borrowing them, writing down notes in index cards, and returning the books.  They can edit several times without having to waste paper.  They can copy and paste without actually copying and pasting.

Sometimes I think the convenience that technology brings makes people lazy.  They want things instantly and expect instant gratification.  However, life doesn’t work that way.  I think we appreciate things more when we have put a lot of thought and sweat in it.  For me, home-made gifts are always better because you know that the person has put time and effort in making you something.  This is probably also the reason why we are never satisfied with stuff we buy.  We buy something that we think will make us happy but after a few months, we’re looking for the next thing to buy.

It’s nice to expose our children to the old-fashioned way of doing things.  Cook and bake together, instead of take-out.  Do projects around the house.  Play real games, instead of virtual ones.  Use the phone and have conversations and not just chat or text messages.  Have them write, draw, compute and type manually.  This will help all of us to appreciate the benefits that technology has given us but at the same time keep us grounded and realize that we are not slaves to technology.

Technology is a wonderful thing.  We can save time, money and effort by using it properly.  Manual labor may not be as efficient but if it is a labor of love, then it becomes a beautiful thing.