Machines on the Verge by Ron Steinman

In the United States there are now almost 340 million devices connected to only the ether (and, ultimately, each other depending on your need) through small but very powerful chips that control and guide smart phones, normal cell phones, tablets and even the less portable laptop. That means for the first time there are more devices in the United States than there are people. And there is every reason to believe the gap will continue to grow. This is according to CTIA –The Wireless Association in it semi-annual survey of what it calls wireless subscribers, penetration, usage and revenue. All large. All growing. All with no place to go but up.
Are the machines finally in charge of our lives? Probably not, but without doubt, we as individuals are individuals no more. We have become slaves to the tiny, almost invisible chips that give these devices their power over us. Give the machines a few more years and who knows to what lengths the techies will have gone to take away, usually without our knowing it, what remains of our freedom.
I am not a Luddite. Far from it. I enjoy a handheld computer at my disposal but I work very hard not to give it the chance to dominate my life, the same way I see people’s lives dominated by technology everywhere I turn. Couples at dinner spend more time on their smart phones than they do looking at each other. Fathers and mothers wheeling baby carriages who may rarely look down at their child, so dominated are they by the smart phone in their hands. Some people have a phone for work and one for personal use. None of this comes cheap. And, oddly enough, despite the seriousness of the recession, people are still buying the latest gadgets and subscribing to the most intricate plans. Then there those who assume the retro look as plumbers or electricians that we see everywhere with mobile device upon mobile device strapped in a leather carrying case around waists, a belt meant usually to help keep their pants from falling down.
For sheer numbers smart phones and the old-fashioned mobile phones are in the majority. Tablets are creeping up but very slowly. From all the advertisements and publicity, you would think tablets make up most of the market. Wrong. Though they are gaining, they still only hold about 5 % of all mobile device sales.
Apps can do many things and many things they do are worth having as part of one’s mobile device. But apps have limitations. Can an app open a bottle of wine? Can an app test your taste buds with a new chocolate? Can an app allow you to fall in love with the girl next door by sniffing the lovely perfume she wears? At least not yet but I will bet that some smart start-up is now hard at work to enable those things to take place. Keep buying those mobile computers. Keep adding as many apps as you want. Keep paying bills that grow higher by the day. Have we finally found a recession-proof industry? Maybe. Only time will tell. One thing is for sure – the reliance on portable computers is not a fad. It is real and about the only thing that really is in control of many lives.

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