I was probably 7 years old when my parents first took me to the Church History Library in Salt Lake. As my mother unwrapped my scarf, I saw an entire floor of old ladies shuffling across the velvet carpet to and from computer terminals. I was fascinated that through those machines, these sweet grandmas could find information about their ancestors and start their temple work. 5 years later, at one of my first Young Men’s activities, we did family history work ourselves on PCs the ward owned and housed. I was excited to finally do what those little ladies were doing, and thought the fact that we could do the work from our own church building was incredible. Earlier this year I signed up for the new FamilySearch website, and have begun the work again on my laptop while in the comfort of my PJ’s. As we take advantage of these advances in technology, we can with greater ease bless the lives of the loved ones who have gone before us.
I am glad for my disabilities. I had a stroke when I was born that left my right hand permanently impaired. Even so, when I was young I was virtually addicted to video games. I gamed until they became complicated enough that I could not use my left hand exclusively and still win. I gave up video games, but have continued to watch with interest the computing and video gaming world. I now realize how trapped I could have become. If I were addicted to single-player and non-immersive games, MMORPGs would have been the death of me. I have seen firsthand the destruction MMOPRGs can have on the family structure. I knew a coworker whose husband quit his job to play World of Warcraft when they were already both working and struggling to provide for their growing family. I have seen roommates miss important church meeting because they had not finished their game in time. I have seen addictions to video games evolve to addictions of things much more harmful than gaming itself. The threat is growing, and the damage is real. We all need to be careful.
One of the most alluring entrapments the Internet provides is its ability to make our curious inquiries anonymous. We can search for anything, or be anyone without apparent damage to the integrity of our own external identity. I believe we need to consider more than our public reputation when surfing the Internet. We need to take into account the residual effect that malicious content leaves on our minds and hearts. The brain is an amazing memory bank, and almost all experiences we have, including the ones our nameless selves participate in leave an imprint, for better or for worse. We owe it to ourselves, our friends and family, and most of all to our God, who knows our eternal identity, to steer clear of the scarifying influence that dangerous material on the Internet can inflict on our souls.
I decided to borrow the audio-book version of “The World is Flat” from the library and rip it onto my iPhone while I had it checked out. It allowed me to listen to the book easily as I walked to school, ran to and from classes, and while sitting in the sea of students during lunch. At first it seemed like a great idea to use my down time to complete a long homework assignment. Chapter two simply discussed the 10 forces that have flattened the world. Shocker. Similarly, the concept of the triple convergence was a yawner, especially from a contemporary 2009 viewpoint. However, when I got to “The Untouchables” and “The Right Stuff” I became a little uneasy. Friedman was beginning to address the issues and problems of the very institution I was walking through. His comments about our sense of entitlement as America’s youth played out in front of my eyes as I listened to students in my classes complain about the difficulty of their projects and assignments. As I continued to listen to the audio-book, I somehow missed the end of chapter seven and went on to “The Quiet Crisis”. This chapter sounded the alarm regarding the shortage of engineering majors in US universities and placed my fears about our deficiencies into panic mode. During the breaks from listening to this grim future, I would overhear my friends talk about the latest celebrity gossip or what parties they were planning for Friday night. Several times it took all the restraint I had not to exclaim “What are you guys doing?! Don’t you know that we don’t have time for fun and games anymore? We are going to be outsourced if we don’t get our act together!” After finishing the book my heart rate walking around campus has decreased about 50 bpm, but I still think we have a lot to do. America can no longer lay claim to worldwide manifest destiny, and the only way we will be successful is through taking advantage of the opportunities that are afforded us while we still can.
The open-source movement puzzles me. Software development is an engineering discipline that is unlike any other that has come to pass, and because of its uniqueness, the amount and ease of collaboration is unsurpassed. This was known. However, when Linus Torvalds unleashed the collaborative paradigm of open-source, the feature that makes software development so attractive was finally and fully exploited. The idea that an industry-grade software package could be spawned from the scurryings of several thousands of unpaid developers was absurd, and in many minds (particularly Microsoft’s) is still ludicrous. But there is hard evidence, and it is knocking on the private sector’s door with increasing steadiness. Certainly testing and bug-fixing is a huge benefactor of this new process, but it remains to be seen if the open-source community can flex its innovative muscles to prove that it doesn’t need the deep pockets that Apple’s and Microsoft’s R&D departments have to create something entirely new. I will be keeping tabs on Source-Forge…
It takes a lot of guts to go against the grain. Humans naturally have a tendancy to stick with established methods of communication because that is what is comfortable to them. With the introdction of their new iMac line a couple of weeks ago, Apple introduced their new "Magic Mouse", which takes advantage of the hand gesturing technology introduced by the iPhone. It has not gotten wonderful reviews, but my guess is part of the reason why it has received poor reviews is because of it is in uncharted territory. Nothing like this product has every been attempted before. No one knows how to use the mouse, and unfamiliarity breeds confusion, an unwelcome feeling for any magazine editor. Apple has often introduced products that have gotten a lukewarm reception from the public, but since Steve Jobs is such a visionary, he is opening everyone's eyes a little wider, and we just have to get used to the brightness of the future.