the digital age

In the book, “My Side of the Mountain,” Sam Gribley runs away from home and lives in a tree in the Catskill Mountain range. A vicious winter storm rips through his forest home, tearing down branches and trees. At first he thinks the forest has been destroyed and wonders how he can repair it. Then it dawns on him that the forest has dealt with the harsh forces of nature for centuries and managed to thrive. I believe the principle Sam learned applies to the growth of technology. It’s easy to think that the problems we face are unique to modern times, but our history says otherwise.

Though the technologies differ, the problems are the same. Professions or trades are obsoleted while new ones are created and those new professions will later be obsoleted by yet newer ones. This leaves us with the question of what to do as technology changes. Do we fight it, embrace it or pretend it doesn’t exist? If we feel something has been created that causes more harm than good, do we have a recourse? Do we have the power to stop it? I don’t have all the answers, but from my limited experience, it is far easier to guide something in a slightly different direction rather than trying to stop it altogether. If something gets out of hand, it’s probably not the technology at fault, but our use of it. Of course, any attempt to moderate or control the use of technology is met with cries of censorship and lack of privacy, but there needs to be a balance. Inventing a robot to vacuum your living room is a wonderful use of technology. Using the robot to vacuum up your neighbor’s gerbil may be questionable. B.F. Skinner hit the nail on the head when he wrote, “The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.”


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  1. Dan, I grew up going to North Lake in the Catskills every summer for our vacation(2 weeks at a campground) from when I was 7 to about 13.

    Comment by Nick on January 17, 2006 @ 6:05 pm
  2. Wow, that’s pretty cool. I don’t suppose you ran into Sam Gribley and his peregrin falcon?

    Comment by dan on January 18, 2006 @ 10:42 am
  3. So, I guess you’re not going to be reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for this one, eh? Too bad. I guess you’ve already read it, though.

    Your vacuum robot reminds me of a song by the Clash, The Magnificient Seven. There’s a line that goes, “vacuum cleaner sucks up budgie… ooooooooh! Bye bye!”

    Comment by Levi on January 18, 2006 @ 10:42 am
  4. Levi: Nope, we don’t read that anymore. Instead we read The Cuckoo’s Egg which I just finished. Having read both, I have to say The Cuckoo’s Egg is a much more gripping read.

    I just came up with the vacuum robot sucking up the gerbil on my own, but I guess great minds think alike ;)

    Comment by dan on January 18, 2006 @ 10:45 am
  5. Welcome back to active blogging!

    Comment by DaveH on January 20, 2006 @ 12:03 pm
  6. “My Side of the Mountain” was one of my favorite childhood books. I still treasure my water-warped paperback copy.

    Comment by Jeff Nichols on January 23, 2006 @ 5:14 am
  7. I read it for a class, so I never got a copy of my own, but I remember dreaming about living off the land with my very own Peregrine Falcon.

    Comment by dan on January 23, 2006 @ 9:48 am
  8. I too am a fan of Jean George’s story of Sam and his mountain. My love of the outdoors started with my discovery of this book. Check my tribute to the story at
    cheers, tom

    Comment by Tom on January 27, 2006 @ 4:21 am

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