Sunday, December 18, 2005

Why conservatives hate MP3 players

collision detection: Why conservatives hate MP3 players

This article is a version of the typical: "Technology x is inherently evil." In this case, the discussion is about personal audio players, but I've heard this same argument time and time again. One of the more common ones is "thanks to computers, kids today just don't think!"

I usually have two responses to a discussion like this.

First, technology can almost always be used for good or evil. You can watch hours of reality TV and pronounce TV nothing but garbage. Yet, you can also use TV to teach kids and spread important ideas. The fact that most of the time, people are melting their brains watching the latest sitcom isn't something wrong with TV, it's something wrong with the person watching the TV.

Take the personal music player. It can, as they suggest, be a way for people to close off the universe around them and to be as self centered as possible. It's also a way to listen to podcasts -- which is effectively a way to broadcast your ideas to any number of people for almost free. In this scenario, you could easily argue that it's the personal audio player that gets credit for helping to spread an individual's ideas. Hardly a self-centered, egotistical thing to do.

The other argument I typically make is that people have to remember that at any given time in history, what we now consider a commodity, was typically some cutting-edge-controversial piece of technology. The phone, telegraph, car, etc. were all invented at some point, and I am sure somebody said that they were inherently evil.

Consider the phone. You could probably argue that people don't know their neighbors as well, all because they spend so much time yacking on the phone. And of course people don't write letters any more, because they can just pick up the phone and call. Gosh, the phone is evil and responsible for bringing down our society. Yet, if you have a heart attack, I'm sure the phone and 911 looks pretty useful.

So, that's a bit extreme of an example. But the point is, what we find to be safe and excepted technology, at one time was quite risky and undefined. Heck, I can just imagine the kids who were learning to use written language, while their parents didn't yet have that skill....

Dad: Kids today, they don't think anymore. Why, back in my day, if we learned something, we had to remember it. Now, kids just scratch it into a rock, like a bunch of lazy bums. What's this world coming to?

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