37. Technology

If you’re too “into” something, it can be hard to communicate with people who aren’t. So if I’m going to write an article about technology, I’d better hurry up. I already do all my writing and organizing information on the computer, and even on a slow day, I spend an hour on E-mail.
Being disabled forces me to think about budgeting my energy, and technology helps me do it. Also, I can’t see my friends as easily as I used to, and technology lets me communicate with them, and make new friends.
Now I’ll roll the clock back. I don’t have to go too far; in 1990, I was a technophobe. Computers were for MIT graduates, and if we didn’t stop them, they were going to take over the world. Actually, I had good friends who were already fascinated with technology, and they weren’t the type to take over the world. But I considered them exceptions.
I was scared. I had already learned the important things, I thought, and this was becoming an important thing I wasn’t even close to learning. And it was like television without the saving grace of human images. People who got obsessed with computers sat like zombies in front of electronic screens and seemed to be in another world.
Quickly, before these body-snatchers completely take over my brain, let me (the human me) tell you what good technology can do. People who have various difficulties with communication may find that technology enables them to overcome or bypass their difficulties. At this very moment – the moment I’m “writing” it, not the moment you’re reading it – my right hand is on strike. It goes on strike occasionally, and my left hand has to press all the keys. That’s one of the ways multiple sclerosis affects me. People who have to live with autism often have important things to say, and can sometimes say these things with the help of technology. People who can’t walk can still get around now. And you able-bodied folks out there probably will find that you can do more, and do it better, with the help of technology.
To me, the most important things people do are done through communication. It’s a good thing I’m a verbal kind of person; if ballet were my medium, I’d be in trouble. I’d probably feel sorry for myself. And it will be a while before we figure out how to stage quality ballet with disabled artists. But technology seems to be full of surprises.
Last week I connected, via E-mail, with a teacher who wanted to know how to find non-sexist, non-violent fairy tales. I don’t know whether that teacher shares a gender, race, religion, dietary preference, or Zodiac sign with me, but because of technology, that teacher has some leads in the search for those fairy tales. I won’t necessarily know whether the leads lead anywhere, but it feels good to know I may have helped.
I haven’t quite completed the move from technophobia to technophilia, but I’m on my way. I worry about what the little electrons may be doing to people. Carcinogens sometimes show up without warning. I once told my daughter that TV turns people into vegetables. Maybe computers do, too. But so far, I’m more impressed with the potential than the danger.

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