Have you heard the song "Frozen" today? If you haven't, odds are, you will. It is everywhere, and almost every little girl is singing about "a kingdom of isolation" of which they could be queen. Gotta tell you, it breaks my heart. Do they really know what isolation is? I hope not. And what is it that makes the feeling of isolation so common in such a hyper-connected time?
It all depends on how you define isolation. Language is inexact, subjective.
Technology, the word, is fascinating to me; full of possibility and yet somewhat intimidating. It feels like there should be another word for it at this point, when it is such a part of our everyday lives. Techie doesn't quite do it. Technophile? We all seem to have this deep, yet reluctant relationship with technology. Yet given our tech adoption rates, - technologist isn't just "that guy" or "that girl", it is all of us. There are, for instance, at least three different technologies allowing me to connect these words with you: the device on which you are reading, the one on which I wrote them, the HuffPo server, the wired or unwired connection by which these words travelled to reach you. Those girls singing Frozen, likely memorized the words using a technology device. Even Arianna Huffington advised, "look up from your device every once in a while, and see what you've been missing."
My father, who was a very successful and accomplished scientist, used to love to tell the story of growing up in a very rural area of Argentina, where one of the rancher families was the first in the whole province to get a car (some point in the very early 1900s). They brought that car and flaunted it around the neighborhood so much that finally, the rival family went and got themselves a car. In bringing that second car around to show off, the only two cars in the whole province, driving by each other and popping wheelies to outdo one another, it took less than two hours for the cars to crash. Whatever the technology advance, our adoption of it is inevitably fraught with unintended consequence.
Siri reminded me of this the other day when I asked for the shortest route to a place I frequently go. She had directed me there several times before. But on this day, she said "I'm sorry, I cannot find xxx location." After several unsuccessful tries at enunciating differently, I said "you are no help, Siri." to which she replied "you are entitled to your opinion."
Frustrated, I asked her to play for me "There's Always The Sun" by the Stranglers. She replied "You don't have any stranglers in your contacts." To her credit, she knows the answer to "What does the fox say?"
My colleague, Vanessa showed how complex it can be trying to communicate with Siri or any virtual assistant, when your first language is not English, and offered spanish speakers some helpful advice.
Communication technologies: phones, SMS and social media, allow us to connect with each other, (meaning the real people, not virtual) in ways never before possible. Connection, to me, is a very big deal, literally priceless. So even when it isn't seamless, it is worth it.
Still the same technology that connects me with distant friends on social media, SMS, email, has created far more worries about privacy and surveillance, and cyber security and a myriad of other concerns. Are you Heartbleed safe?
For as much as I love music, I don't listen to any online streaming service because I am concerned about how fair they are being to the artists whose work and intellectual property they use. I've read the complaints from artists and friends who I respect, and read the counter-arguments from the service providers, and conclude it is best to buy the music, knowing it is paid for, and have Siri play it for me, (when she is so inclined.)
Today's technology is exciting, amazing, frustrating, puzzling and overwhelming. What I love about CNET and CNET en Español is that it is a guide to navigate it all, with teams of journalists to help understand it all. And in doing that, navigating the language of tech, mapping it to English or Spanish, is such a needed service.
Some of us remember the time when the accidental wrong series of keystrokes on your pc keyboard meant you froze up the computer, and in some cases killed it entirely. There was no opportunity to ask - why? What combination did that? A frozen computer - that is indeed a chilling feeling.
Technology is the intersection of very specific disciplines of math and science, and the very non-exact discipline of language. And getting the language right means the difference between getting the desired result, or not.
My point, and I do have one, is that learning to love technology, to embrace it and use it well may involve early crashing into each other, but in the long run, it can be a great tool of connection.