July 30, 2014

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Conditions at Parkersburg, Mid Ohio Valley Regional Airport, WV
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Our Modern Computer Age

Does technology allow us to communicate better, or just lull us into a false sense of security?

I've been doing a lot of reflection on last week's severe weather.

And while I'm very pleased that no one was hurt by the storms that were predicted for Thursday, I'm surprised that so many were caught off guard by them.

Although I will be the first to admit that I'm overly attuned to weather (Heck, my wife says I won't walk outside without first checking the weather radar channel!), I am constantly amazed by how many people take no notice of the weather until it "bites them in the rear!"

I see this at all levels of life and co-workers. It may be human nature that we only look at what most concerns us, right in front of us, but I wonder if there's something else at work here.

In olden days (REAL LONG AGO) our pioneer forefathers would watch the skies for any hint of what was to come. Clouds were read, cricket chirps were counted, and the behavior of animals were all clues to the approach of bad weather.

But nowadays, we promise and expect that someone else is going to warn us, protect us, take care of us. That clean cut person on the weather channel says they'll keep us safe if we stay tuned to them for the latest information.

That's a heck of a claim to make, "We'll keep you safe". How can that be guaranteed? That assumes and implies that we, the media, can make decisions for the viewer. It takes on a level of responsibility that no one should assume.

After all, if I walk out into the street and get hit, isn't it my responsibility because: A) I stepped off the curb, B) I ignored the traffic signal, C) I didn't look for traffic, D) I wasn't wearing bright orange reflective clothing?

Maybe it's too much to expect total safety, but it seems that in our modern age, we rely so much on automated systems, computer generated watches, warnings, graphics and programs, that we no longer look both ways or even twice before "stepping off the curb".

I'm mixing metaphors here, but let me make it more plain: When the weather grows HOT and HUMID, we know from experience that not only are strong storms possible, but LIKELY to end the hot spell. We have seen this happen year after year.

Why is it now that we expect someone else to warn us that the storms could be bad? That there is danger in that rumble of thunder? That a darkening sky means the approach of a storm? And why is it that with every strong storm, someone ALWAYS says "That's the worst storm I've ever seen. Why, I had NO WARNING?"

I'm beginning to think that our over-reliance on technology to inform and warn us is a bad thing... when it stops us from using our common sense.

(This really isn't where I had intended to take this blog today, but it's where my thoughts have wound up. Maybe I'll get back to my original point another day....)

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