In the classic, all be it incorrect, film and book "2001: A Space Odyssey" the crew of the Discovery rely on the HAL 9000 computer for everything. He controls the air they breathe, the food they eat, how they communicate with those they love or work with, and of course, he kills them when he decides they have become too big-headed.
Although the story from the book, and movie, was set 5 years ago and written almost 40 years ago I think we can all see a time when it is very possible. Arthur C. Clarke may have missed when it came to the date the events occurred but so much of what he envisioned has come to pass. Are we not on our way to becoming a society dependent on our computers?
Just today, I picked up a copy of the student newspaper on the campus of my Alma Mater in which a student writes an article about how to recognize 'internet addiction.' The author cites research that states that net addicts have risen from 1% of the population to almost 10% in the last five years. She goes on to note that half of those deemed "webaholics" have also been been addicted to another vice in the past such as sex, drugs or alcohol. Some may say that it is just the young people who are in danger, and the ones who have addictive personalities at that, but I would venture to guess that the same was said about TV viewers 50 years ago.
There may have been an article just like this one about the dangers of being entranced by the boob tube then, and now we live in a world where more people vote for American Idol than the American President. What I don't know is if Harry Truman spoke out about the dangers of modern pop technology like our current President did this weekend. While making a speech to the graduates at Oklahoma State this weekend Bush said "With the Internet, you can communicate instantly with someone halfway across the world and isolate yourself from your family and your neighbors." This all may be a prelude to efforts to curb our access to some types of information on the net, or there may be a real worry here.
Do we spend too much time surfing the web? One employee must have been because Toquir Choudhri lost his job over the matter in the New York City Department of Education this month. His boss gave him the ax despite the recommendation of a New York Administrative Court Judge, John Spooner, who said that personal use of the internet is to be expected at work these days. "It should be observed that the Internet has become the modern equivalent of a telephone or a daily newspaper, providing a combination of communication and information that most employees use as frequently in their personal lives as for their work." This sacking sounds like a load of crap to me, even though the AP article says Mr. Choudhri was warned to cease his non-work related surfing. What next?
So are we too reliant on our computers or not? Well it is hard to take anything seriously from the guy writing on his blog, while listening to an Australian youth radio station on live steaming audio. My humble opinion is that as long as we use the net as a source of information, entertainment, or enrichment and not as the be-all-end-all of our lives we should be ok. It is the people who can't pull their assess out of the chair to get out and see life IRL who we need to worry about.