What Hath Jobs Wrought?

I’m not sure whether Steve Jobs was the best thing that ever happened to our culture or the worst.  It’s clear that he was a modern day Edison, a genius with vision and a love of beautiful design (take that, HP and Dell et al).  His imagination changed our world so fast and so profoundly that we Mac users actually feel cool when using Apple products.  I depend on my MacBook Pro, my IPad and my IPhone to be connected to the world and therein lies the rub…

There are disturbing things afoot, friends, and though I risk sounding like some crazy luddite, I’m raising my concern because the health and right to privacy of an entire generation is at stake.

Last week when I went to my local Apple store to buy a replacement plug, I had to fight my way through a long line wrapped around the building to get ‘approved’ to enter by a security guard.  What’s this, I asked him, pointing to a few hundred people patiently waiting in line at 10am on a Wed. He looked at me like I had just flown in from Pluto and quipped, “The new IPhone.”  Later that day I met with a student who was thrilled to show me his new phone.  ”And wait, you haven’t seen the best thing yet”, he squealed, jumping up and down in his seat.  ”I don’t need a security code, just my fingerprint.

Say whaaaat?  Your fingerprint??? OMG

So your new IPhone uses your fingerprint as its security code.  It also tracks your movements even when you turn it off.  And you can’t disable that.  There are back doors coded into its architecture, compliments of the NSA, placed there to, you know, capture terrorists.  Not that you are one, mind you.  But you are supposed to feel safe that your government is listening to everything you say and write and text, which is a violation of your PRIVACY.  And we have no idea why they are really doing this.  If you think it’s just to catch terrorists, you need to pay closer attention.

Then there are the social changes these devices have created.  I notice how nearly everyone on the subway is reading something on their smart phone or tuned out to music, head down, shoulders curled forward, chest collapsed. Personal trainers see the damage of this new posture problem.  I see people texting and reading their devices as they step out into on-coming traffic or bump into other pedestrians on crowded Manhattan streets.  People make business deals, discuss medical diagnoses, gossip, flirt and expose their private lives to the hundreds around them in restaurants and waiting rooms with no embarrassment or recognition that this is an annoyance to the others around them.  Now that wifi is on some subways, I recently stood next to a woman on a jammed #3 train who was raging and cursing at her husband on her phone for 3 full stops.  Hundreds of others listened in and squirmed.  Even in NYC, it’s all too much.

The evidence is mounting that the electro-magnetic fields created by these devices are dangerous over time to living cells.

And we’re giving IPads to kids as little as 18 months as if they were toys.  The directions that come with the IPhone instruct us to keep the phone at least 5/8ths of an inch away from the body and to avoid using it when the signal is weak because the phone will produce more radiation to compensate.  Oh, and not to wear it on our bodies.  Do you think anyone really knows this? This is all in the small print.

Soon we’ll be a wi-fi nation and we have no idea what that will mean to our overall health.  This reminds me of an earlier era – the ’50s and ’60s – when “better living through chemistry” was the rage and our environment was nearly wrecked by the recklessness of the chemical companies and lax government oversight.  Think SuperFund cleanups that cost us all billions of dollars and untold lives lost to cancer and auto-immune diseases triggered by substances created in a the laboratory our bodies were not designed to contain and destroy.  All I can think of is here we go again.  Lesson not learned.

So, hmmm, let’s see…  Convenience and cool vs radiation, compulsion and invasion of privacy.

What will we ultimately choose?