Placing trust in technology


Placing trust in technology

By Kevin Kelly - Contributing columnist



Sometimes I ask myself, “When will I ever learn?” But the answer is already known. Until I experience it for myself and get the desired result, I’m always going to mistrust new devices designed to make our lives easy.

Like automated checkout machines in grocery stores. Even if I have successfully navigated my way through the instructions, paid for the purchased items and obtained a receipt, I still prefer the human touch, using the electronic option only when when a walking, talking person is unavailable to process all my stuff. Besides, I like to think I’m keeping someone employed by having them handle my shopping personally, and share a little conversation along the way.

There has to be a time to place trust in new technology, as maddening as it can be when initially putting it all in motion. I haven’t quite reached that point yet, although I am by no means close-minded about it, just leery of my own experience in missing a step along the way. Do it enough, though, and the instructions on use become rote and your fingers glide effortlessly over the keypad or -board, the happy state in which I arrived following my first attempts to operate a fax machine too many years ago to count.

But then something new comes up, even if it doesn’t really challenge your ability to learn new things or your manual dexterity. This week I had an encounter with a situation that proves it isn’t merely having the skills that apply, but overcoming my own stubbornness.

The example cited here is on the new car we bought last summer. It has one of those features allowing you to check how many miles your current tank of gas will carry you. To my mind, that’s fine if the fuel gauge reads half or more and I know it’s enough to get us to and from our next appointment.

However, when the needle is pointing perilously close to E, and the fuel feature says you’ve got something like 75 to 100 miles left before a fill-up is required, you still go with what the gauge tells you. And that means get some gas as soon as possible. Now, the device on the dashboard may be fully accurate, but time and experience warns you the vehicle may soon run out of gas.

That was my belief this past week when, after my wife Beth checked the device and told me she had enough go juice to make it to Wellston and back, I still couldn’t square it with the gauge hugging the side of the display near empty. The information proved right, and she made it there and back. Beth proved her point, but I still put a few more bucks’ worth of regular in the tank the next morning before she made a return trip. Didn’t want to see her left along the road, miles from the nearest fuel stop.

I knew what that was like from a used car with an improperly placed fuel pump that never did give a correct reading of how much gas I had, as I discovered to my chagrin a few times when the car coughed several times, jerked and stopped dead in the road. Needless to say, the “topper” influence when it comes to filling the tank remains as strong with me today as it was when I first began driving back in the ’70s.

Yet, I must keep telling myself, especially with this car: Just because it looks like it’s about to run out of gas, it really isn’t. The gauge information says it won’t, an equivalent of the old belief that while it looks like the tank is gone, there’s one or more gallons in there that don’t show up. Call me chicken, but I never really wanted to find out the truth of that claim.

***

In the past two weeks I’ve spent a significant amount of time in hospitals, first as a patient at St. Mary’s of Huntington and secondly checking up on my mother-in-law at Riverside in Columbus. Both trips, each stretching into days, were sudden and unexpected for everyone concerned. However, as of this writing things have calmed down enough to allow an expression of some thoughts about the state of health care at both facilities.

The key item is that while Riverside may be almost three times the size of St. Mary’s, the level of care and concern from the staff was the same in each case. Physicians, nurses, aides and other professionals were unfailingly upbeat and solicitous of the patient, meeting needs to the best of their abilities despite the demands placed on them by their accumulated workloads. It was, in short, a comfort to have that level of compassion just a call away, and did much to assure us that patient and family were put at ease no matter how seriously the treatment may play out.

I’m not not singling out these hospitals as exemplars of what health care should be in this country. For a hospital, be it a building in a community setting or even a tent in some distressed, conflict-torn part of the world, is but a structure. What’s important is that it houses the skills of those who know how to save lives and make those of other individuals better. And that’s the most vital feature of a medical facility — that the work of its staff continues uninterrupted every day.

***

And to all of you who have expressed sympathy, prayers and concern for my own condition, all I can say is, I am eternally grateful. Realizing I have a long road to travel, of which I will know more about in a few days, the support expressed on my behalf is having its effect in elevating my spirits and allowing me to continue doing things I enjoy — like writing this column.

To all, thank you. Looking forward to being here next week.

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Placing trust in technology

By Kevin Kelly

Contributing columnist

Kevin Kelly, who was affiliated with Ohio Valley Publishing for 21 years, resides in Vinton, Ohio.

Kevin Kelly, who was affiliated with Ohio Valley Publishing for 21 years, resides in Vinton, Ohio.

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