I figure that I have enough projects to keep me happily busy until I am 150 years old. But judging from my friends and my body, I may not live to be that old. Clearly trying to complete them more rapidly doesn’t work, because I am becoming slower. I am still moving reasonably well. I am well into becoming better organized (my wife will snicker at this), becoming more embroiled in writing my mythical two books, and catching up on my reading (difficult because excellent new books seem to be coming out faster than I can read). And I am moving along at restoring stuff . The photos below show the before and after condition of the McCormick mower I mentioned in a previous post. It is now working well and I am about to take it up to my son’s farm and let him test it with a couple of his huge horses.
But I am still acquiring outstanding old hardware faster than I can restore it. And the hardware I have restored drastically needs more attention. And of course there is my growing family, my old and needy house, my failure to succeed in completely cutting my ties with Stanford, and frequent assignments from Marian.
What to do, what to do? I am going to devote the next post to a book entitled Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, by Sherry Turkle, one of my favorite authors (Basic Books, 2011). I read this when it was released, but re-read it when I ran across it recently, and it spoke more directly to me now that I am further behind and my grandchildren are older. Turkle is a psychologist on the M.I.T. faculty, and specializes in the interaction of technology and society. This is the fifth book she has written during the “information revolution”, the previous ones being quite positive about computers, the internet, and so forth. Fifteen years had passed since the last one when she wrote Alone Together, and her daughter was now in college. This book discusses many worries about what the internet is doing to us and our children, and I will recommend it highly if you haven’t read it.
In particular, it got me thinking about the increasing chunk of time my computer and the internet are requiring from me. When I wrote my Good Products, Bad Products book, also released in 2011, my publisher talked me, an innocent, into entering the social networking scene in order to publicize the book. With some reservations I joined Facebook, Twitter, and Linked in, and started this blog. I enjoy writing this blog, because it makes me think, but have never really felt comfortable with the social networking sites, with the result that I have neither tried to increase the size of the pool of people who I presumably interact with, nor have I done a good job of interacting with the people in the pool.
And like many people, my e-mail has gotten out of hand. I seem to be showing up on lists faster than I can make filters to stop it—probably partly because of my Stanford connection, the exploding number of overseas students looking for financial aid and admission to college in the U.S., an increase in technical meetings and consulting opportunities, and just plain marketing.
So during the next week I am going to think hard about my interaction with the internet and digital communication in general. Some years ago, Don Knuth, author of the set of classic book entitled “The Art of Computer Programming”, informed his friends that he was quitting e-mail, in order to have more time to think deeply and work on writing projects. Since he is a god in the computer field, this attracted a lot of attention. I am not a god, but I am feeling the same way right now, especially toward social networking. I am fortunate in that I have a large number of real friends I love, and am not looking for cyber friends or contacts. And my computer is demanding an increasing and already far too much of my time. I am certainly not alone in this feeling. People are waking up to the downside of all of these digital miracles. More about this in my next blog.