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Opinion

App-solution or App-rehension?


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Jun. 24, 2022 - 5:54 PM

App-solution or App-rehension?

The Newnan Times-Herald

Our antediluvian devices — pay phones, iPods, Walkmen, buggy whips, clay tablets — have all been supplanted.

Our society just keeps inventing.

Now it’s Xboxes, smart TVs and phones, Alexa and virtual reality headsets. We have electric, self-driving cars and a prototype of the Jetsons’ flying car is literally waiting in the wings, to debut in 2023, says the manufacturer, Jetson Aero. Dick Tracy’s wrist watch has become a reality and then some. Smart watches can even diagnose a heart attack. Even the ailing Queen was a hologram in the window of her ornate carriage during her Platinum Jubilee parade.

What’s next in the name of progress?

Scientists at the National Science Foundation, who are infinitely smarter than I will ever be, are saying “teleportation is possible now in the subatomic world of quantum mechanics.”

I have no idea what that means.

They go on to say, “Last year, scientists confirmed that information could be passed between photons on computer chips even when the photons were not physically linked.”

I don’t know what that means, either. But it scares me.

As much as I like modernity, innovation and all those apps, there is a time and a place for everything.

At least 10 years ago, my brother and his wife visited us at Christmas, new iPhones in hand. Rick and I couldn’t afford smartphones yet. I was happy for them, though.

I warned my brother in succinct language that if he pulled out his fancy new iPhone at our expensive Christmas Eve dinner at Bacchanalia, the finest restaurant in Atlanta and my one night out for the entire year, I would snatch it from him and throw it against the wall. I talked a good, hyperbolic game.

I would never have been that violent, but I still would’ve made sure he put that thing away. Apparently, he believed me. We had a perfectly lovely evening, from the amuse-bouche through multiple courses, to dessert, and the post-payment finale, a small, sweet bite as an after-dinner lagniappe, courtesy of the chef. And no electronics of any kind appeared at the table. Mais, oui!!

Now, many years after that, it’s assumed everyone has a phone on their person at all times. Even this last Christmas Eve when restaurants were just reopening and pandemic restrictions were easing, Bacchanalia — once my technology refuge and my one line in the sand — betrayed me.

At each table there was a card bearing a QR code that would take diners to an online menu. This was what we had come to instead of a physical menu. Quel dommage.

Digital menus really do pale in comparison to the crisp, printed menus of non-pandemic days. Online menus just don’t carry the same tactile mystique, the ineffable je ne sais quoi or the germs. Especially when the online menu on a phone screen is the size of a playing card and frustrated Luddites lean into their neighbor’s personal space, squinting and asking questions which do not remotely qualify as pleasant dinner conversation. Kinda breaks the mood, I think, the mood that is half of what one pays for when one dines at Bacchanalia. Even if only once a year. But pandemics are mood breakers, too. So, touché.

I recently came across an article about an app that I do find fascinating and it's catching on.

It's called What3Words.

I have concerns.

Some tech genius came up with a way to grid off the entire world into 10-foot squares, assigning each square a unique combination of three words. Three words and this app, that’s all you need to flawlessly pinpoint yourself on the planet. It’s foolproof, they claim.

So, I wonder, how are three words better than the GPS system we already have? I will admit, GPS consistently taking my visitors to my neighbor’s address instead of mine springs immediately to mind.

What about accuracy? Not everybody is Scripps Spelling Bee material. What about homophones? Coral vs. choral, eye vs. I, be vs. bee? Would you bet the farm and your life on three words you cannot guarantee are correctly conveyed or received?

I imagine a scenario in a science-fiction, all-too-near future, when someone is actually materializing via teleportation. Once Humpty Dumpty is together again, he looks around, shaking his head. “Where am I?” he sputters, while checking his body to see if he is all there.

“You are at cereal-turkey-nimrod,” I say. “Is there a problem?”

“You could say that,” he sighs. “I distinctly said I wanted to go to serial-turkey-nimrod.”

“How’d you spell cereal?” I ask.

“Uh-Ohhh …” he sighs.

“Well, at least all of you went to the same place,” I respond. “Mistakes, though, are what you sign up for when you’re a Beta tester,” I remind him. “Maybe you should just buy an airplane ticket or train fare ’til you get the kinks worked out.”

“True,” he concedes, “I see a dangerous flaw in the program for sure. Back to the mother-board, as they say.”

“Better luck next time,” I say. And when you get to where you’re going, tell ’em the lady at cereal-turkey-nimrod sends her regards.

***

Longtime Newnan resident Susie Berta has many creative pursuits, including music, art, writing, cooking, gardening, entertaining and decorating. She is now pursuing her passion for writing and recently published her memoir, “The Veterinarian’s Wife.” She can be reached at susie.berta@gmail.com.