Freedom's Silent Ring

A phone for LudditesNot everyone is dancing following Tuesday's announcement of the latest BlackBerry smartphone. Sure, the new Wi-Fi capability spells greater opportunity for staying in touch with the collective, but it's also one more way to bring the workplace along. Some see this as a good thing, while others feel their blood pressure rising at the idea of more work in an already overworked day.

But there's also a third category, which is made up of people who couldn't care less. Some dismiss them as modern-day Luddites who just don't seem to grasp the importance of technology, but I happen to know a few folks who fit into that group, and their reasons for avoiding conveniences of this sort have nothing to do with tech-ignorance. In fact, some have spent considerable portions of their lives immersed in technology; they've been scientists and engineers, or perhaps used technology to its full extent in the pursuit of business interests. They understand it, they see the value in it, and they don't want anything to do with it.

Are they insane? Possibly, but I can see where they're coming from. In the early days of computing, technology held the promise of increased productivity, among other things. Some of us thought the new computer-driven technologies would allow us to work better, faster, and smarter, and for some of us at least, it worked out exactly that way. But there were other results, too. One of those computer-driven technologies would eventually become the now-ubiquitous device known as the cell phone, and leaving aside the increasing level of convergence between phones and wireless data terminals, it's nearly impossible to get away from the infernal gadgets now. It's one thing to tell your boss—or your clients—you'll be unavailable this evening, this weekend, or next week while you're on vacation, but quite another to actually go through with it.

Besides, who's going to believe you? Everyone knows how long it takes to start shaking and crying after you power down your wireless device(s), and it isn't very long. That's called addiction, and when addiction is used against us by those who sign our paychecks, it's known as slavery.

Don't get me wrong. As I've mentioned before, I love anything that enables and furthers communication, which devices like the BlackBerry do very handily. They represent freedom, but they have a dark side. Maybe that third category of people—those who don't seem to care about tech stuff one way or another—have been to the other side, and lived to tell about it. They might be Luddites, but then again, they might not.


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