You can’t go a day — sometimes you can’t go eight seconds — without being reminded of the Great Technology Debate. You know, whether it’s brought more help or harm to us as a culture.
Exhibits A, B and C for the prosecution: couples on their phones during what could otherwise be a romantic dinner; teenagers (or anyone) texting while driving; Internet fraud and viruses. For the defense: worldwide health-awareness and information-sharing systems; the ability for near-universal quantum learning; (re)connection with loved ones.
I don’t care to take sides or participate in the debate. What’s left to say, anyway? My big issue with technology is what it still can’t do. In fact, I have a list of six things I’d love it to be able to do right now.
6 Tech Functions I Want in Real Life
- Command (or Control) Z: As in “undo.” Since the day I learned that keyboard shortcut, in 1989 (aka the Middle Ages), I longed for a real-life equivalent. Sure, nowadays many programs ask “Are you sure you want to delete that?” But how many times have I gotten off an interstate highway one exit (and a 30-mile reroute) too soon or closed a door remembering .008 seconds later that my keys were still inside. These are the moments that make you cry “Doh!” and pray for two keystrokes to take you back in time.
- Google Search: One of the most extraordinary things about being alive today is our ability to get the answer to virtually anything in the time it takes to type the question. But truly amazing would be an algorithm that provides the answer to far more pressing queries, like “Where are my keys?” “Where did I last use my Mastercard?” or “Anybody seen my glasses?”
- Pause, Rewind, Fast-Forward: I sigh just imagining this. Rewind would let us relive past pleasures over and over, like that first kiss or the feeling of the sun on your skin when the mercury outside reads minus 10 degrees. Or go back far enough to see Janis Joplin at Monterey or meet Thomas Jefferson. Pause would be terrific when you bump into your neighbor in the store and can’t remember her name or when from half a block away you spot the meter maid standing purposefully at your windshield. Fast-forward would come in handy so often: those endless work meetings, intercontinental flights, colonoscopies and, for some of us, January to March.
- DVR, TiVo, PiP: Similar to how our TVs let us view two things that are happening at once, wouldn’t it wonderful to be in two places at once? Your second-cousin-once-removed’s wedding and the Steely Dan concert? The dentist’s chair and Kauai? Work — and almost anywhere?
- GPS: Now that we can download this magical navigational system onto our phones — and some of us can just ask Siri — getting to our physical destination is almost foolproof. But how about GPS for bigger questions, like “How do I find my ideal partner?” or “What’s the best career move for me?” or “Where should I invest my money?” Memo to budding Steve Jobses: Work on this.
- Photoshop: This might be my top choice. True, there’s the temptation to go overboard. But a few judicious nips and tucks and smoothing-overs would be a splendiferous thing. To me, this would be better than Command Z or even Rewind, because I really don’t want to be in any other time of my life. Like many of us midlifers, I suspect, I’m more content in the here-and-now than when I was a pup. But I wouldn’t say no to some free and painless Photoshopping.