I really want to preserve my off-line life, where I find my greatest joy. Almost every week, or even more often, it seems that something which was once completed or communicated off-line or by direct human interaction, is now going to an online, electronic source. Health care is morphing itself into a digital production. Schools are doing more and more through the internet. Automation is taking over in many ways, whether in banking, shopping, or dating. And although it carries potential benefits, the reality is that each day, we are investing a little more time (and mental energy) in learning the ways of technology, and less the ways of people. I can’t help but feel that people are being asked to conform to technology instead of technology conforming to people, or at least the ways we say we want to live.
Recently, a trainer came by to teach me the initial steps of learning to use Dragon Naturally Speaking, which translates what I say onto the computer. I know some people who use it and really like it. But in being able to utilize this program, my trainer stressed that I would have to spend a decent block of time teaching it how to understand the way I speak, and go through steps to correct it when I was misinterpreted. If I didn’t, my “dragon” could actually get dumber over time, and then it would be of little use. As he was telling me this, I admit that I was feeling distracted by one looming question: “What would I have to give up to find the time?” If I knew that this would be the last training request for awhile, I probably would have felt more agreeable. But, I am not naïve enough to think that this would be the case, as the technological world has taught me that the next training is right around the corner. Safe to say, the dragon teaching time would have come from one of two places: either from time spent with my family and others (you) dear to me, or time spent in quiet contemplation, reading, writing, or sleeping. Something about this didn’t seem right.
So my dear friends and family, my “dragon” lies asleep. I am not sure if I will actually ever teach him new skills. But I really look forward to hearing from you soon, and spending joyous time together. In the meantime, feel free to stop by or give me a call on the landline. You can even leave a message on our antique answering machine if you want.
Jim Schroeder, PhD, is a pediatric psychologist at St. Mary’s Center for Children in Evansville, Indiana. He resides there with his wife, Amy, and their six children. He received a BS from Ball State University and graduated with a PhD in clinical psychology from Saint Louis University in 2005. He completed an internship the University of Louisville School of Medicine / Kosair Children’s Hospital and did his postdoctoral fellowship at St. Louis Children’s Hospital through the Washington University School of Medicine. He also writes a monthly column entitled Just Thinking (www.stmarys.org/articles) designed to inform, educate, and motivate parents and providers in applying pertinent research in meaningful, practical ways.