Carl Wernicke: The Next Technological Frontier

Jan 11, 2017

The more I think about the impact of how the online world is changing us and how we live, the fewer answers I have. The one thing I seem to have finally learned is that no one can stay ahead of the curve, because no one can figure out where it is going.

Credit IHMC

Sure, there are always people who guess right, and in hindsight we call them geniuses. But it’s sort of like rating the millions of people busy predicting where the stock market is going. Every year a few people get it right, and they are crowned as the new gurus. When their market picks go awry the next year, we move on to a new guru.

Myself, I go back and forth between loving this new world and loathing it.

Like everyone else, I can no longer live without my cell phone. Lose it, and my entire existence teeters on the verge of extinction. For example, I have no idea of anyone’s phone number anymore. I click on a name in my contacts list and the phone does the rest. Other than my wife, I can’t think of anyone whose phone number I actually know, although I can remember the phone number of my childhood home.

So recently when I couldn’t find my phone, I felt the cold chill of panic. Did I leave it at a restaurant? Drop it in parking lot? Was it a mistake in going for that walk and not locking the house door, and someone walked in and took it? If I were younger, of course, I never would have put the phone down in the first place; have you noticed how young people’s hands seem permanently curved into the size and shape of their phone?

I still relish the freedom that comes from leaving my phone behind when I take a walk or a bike ride … unless I’m listening to a podcast, of course.

However, not being a total Luddite, I was able to use the “find your iPhone” app on my iPad and discovered, to my relief, that it was not moving north on I-10 or something similarly disastrous, but was in fact close by. After a thorough search of the house proved fruitless I found it on the floorboard of my truck, right by the door. I could have easily kicked it out somewhere without knowing it, but through the miracle of electronics I had found it.

Meanwhile, I was engaged in an email correspondence with the support team of WhatsApp, an app that lets you easily connect with friends around the world. As an added bonus, it is encrypted, just in case the NSA is listening in.

For some reason, one particular friend who currently is in Mexico would not show up on my Favorites list, although I showed up on his. The Whatsapp support staff kept up a friendly exchange with me in which they asked for increasingly specific information to try to pin down the problem. Eventually, in a decidedly old-school solution, they declared that my app was functioning correctly, and thank you for contacting us. My friend still does not appear on my Favorites list, but I have managed to reach him through the app.

Anyway, I remain optimistic about all this. Some years ago I read a clever aphorism that said your life is a test, and only a test; if it were an actual life, someone would have told you what to do. I’m confident someone write an app to do just that.