As it becomes easier to rely on technology, we've got to 'use it or lose it.'
Long Island, N.Y.
It's back-to-school time and that means new things to remember. Or not.
Last week, for instance, our 5-year-old forgot his dismissal bus number and was sent to the elementary school office. As he waited to call home, the principal came out and gently asked, "Liam, honey, do you know your telephone number?" To which our son confidently responded, "Yes. Just press 1."
Now, perhaps it is just a sign of the times that in the mind of a kindergartner the Number 1 has come to represent home. And the Number 2 is Dad's office. And the Number 9 is Emilio's Pizzeria. But I'm beginning to think that beneath its moon glow display and zippy ring tone, my cellphone is the kind of ontological commitment that would've made Karl Marx snicker.
A database of contacts, neatly cataloged and classified into groups, has replaced my dog-eared address book. Aural input allows me to bark out commands to an invisible and eternally patient operator: "Go to Babysitters. Call Kelly." [BEEP]. "Did you say, 'Call Kelly'?" [BEEP]. Yes, I like the utility of speed-dial. It does for my mind what the microwave does for my cooking – coagulates chaotic vibrations in the push of a button.
The truth is, however, that in this technocratic age I have come to rely less and less on memory. In fact, I rely less on my own authority altogether.
Daily actions, from the trivial to the critical, are accorded in constant deference to a "record" of things, speedily plucked from my forgiving keypad. "What was the wine we had in St. John?" "Is Tuesday's game home or away?" Seldom will I pause to consider a memory or work off a hunch.
In increasingly innovative ways, my cellphone renders the need to remember a thing of the past. For example, before I receive an incoming call, pixels dance across my one-inch console to broadcast an image of the person calling, attaching for me a face to the name and hence averting the classic party dilemma.