The pace of technological advance is mind-boggling. In the span of a few decades we have gone from the phonograph to 8-Track and cassette, to CD’s, DVD’s and finally the I-pod. We’ve gone from the telephone to beepers to cell phones and texting, from pinball machines to handheld I-pads, from television to YouTube, from VCR’s to On Demand, from physical libraries to online digital book/Seforim collections, from calculators to PC’s; culminating in the connectivity of the World Wide Web.
While such advances are for the most part welcome, certain aspects cause me to pause, and wonder if we really are better off now or then. Gone are the days when the family gathered around the record-player to share the latest music together, gone are the days when the office did not have their personnel on a "leash", gone are the days of leafing through the rare books room in the library, and gone are the days when you called a librarian for information.
What aroused my lament was my recent stroll down a crowded Manhattan avenue. I passed several Starbucks style coffee shops. There were singles and couples sipping lattes and espressos and all eyes were focused on their electronic devices. The sad part was that the couples were not interacting with each other – unless they were texting.
Modern technology has killed the “Hobby”. Stamp collecting, coin collecting, playing a musical instrument, all this is going the way of the dodo. Children no longer play outside, no longer go the park to shoot hoops or the breeze, as they are totally ensnared by their personal electronic devices.
Not too long ago the Jblogosphere was abuzz as to whether the halachic ruling forbidding electricity on Shabbos would need to be revisited. Automatic bathrooms, hotel locks, automatic lights and doors abound. Kindles are replacing books which seem to be disappearing at a rapid pace.
While we do not frown on technology as do the Amish, we should be thankful for the Shabbos gift that we received thousands of years ago. Learning in Shul with physical Seforim with a humanoid as a Chavrusa will reJewvenate us on a weekly basis; allowing us to remove the leash and keep our sanity in the frenetic reality of the new world.
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