Sunday, September 19, 2010

Too much of a good thing? Are too many wireless plug-ins turning us into "The Borg"?

802.11n Wi-Fi making huge impact 1 year after standard ratified
Wave of RF innovation leading to Ethernet-like Wi-Fi
Shipments of 802.11n access points have accelerated since the IEEE standard was formally approved one year ago. But what the numbers alone don't show is the new reality of Wi-Fi networks: they are fast becoming the preferred way to connect and stay connected in the enterprise.

And that reality is sparking new demand from enterprise customers, and new innovation from wireless LAN vendors, to make Wi-Fi networks "work" like wired Ethernet – reliably, consistently, securely – for all kinds of traffic, including video.

"Enterprise wireless LAN vendors are continuing to work on spectrum management and other features for 2011 to create a self-adapting, self-healing wireless LAN," says Paul DeBeasi, vice president, research director, with Gartner's network and telecom strategies group. "The idea is a wireless network that will function like a wired network in terms of performance and reliability."

Ground zero for the 11n revolution is the college campus, with hospitals not far behind. Colleges and universities have a growing population of the unplugged: students who've never used an Ethernet cable. They have the expectation that whatever device they have will be able to connect wirelessly, and handle games, YouTube videos and "American Idol", all in addition to classroom applications.

What's more, says Jeffrey Sessler, director, information technology at Scripps College, Claremont, Calif., is that each student often now has "multiple Wi-Fi-enabled devices needing regular access." One student can have a game console, smartphone or Skype phone, laptop or tablet (or even both), printer, and Internet radio/alarm clock. [...]
When I was in college, I had an Underwood manual typewriter that wasn't wirelessly connected to anything. And neither was I. Somehow, I got by.

I'm not a Luddite, I love technology, when it's used wisely. It's just that I've noticed that the younger generation seems increasingly "plugged into" something, all the time. When people are always plugged into something that's bombarding them with information, it has to start to "shape" them. Perhaps even create a psychological dependency. I start to wonder what they would be like, without all the plug-ins.

Ideally, all this "information technology" is supposed to improve our lives by making our everyday reality easier by making the exchange and flow of information easier. But to what extent is it now creating our reality? Even a kind of "virtual" reality, a kind of mass-mind or "hive" consciousness, that actually distracts us from the more ordinary reality of just being alive, a living human being, the way we were in the pre-wireless world?

I used to take breaks from the computer and the internet, just stop using it for days or even weeks at a time, because I felt that using it constantly and relentlessly kind of put me in a "artificial" state of mind, living in a world of ideas more than living in the actual world I'm living in. Taking breaks from it made me feel more balanced. And when I went back to the computer/internet, I would enjoy it more, because of the contrast.

Nowadays, I find it harder to take those breaks. Oh sure, I take short breaks, but not for long. At minimum, I have to consult the internet to find out what the weather is going to be like, to see the on-line satellite maps, so I can plan my day on the farm or at work in town. Then there are work-related emails, and things I need to buy that I have to do on-line, or items or things I need to research on-line.

Clearly, I've become more dependent on the machine. But still, I'm not plugged in ALL the time. I don't have "the expectation that whatever device I have will be able to connect wirelessly", nor do I have "multiple Wi-Fi-enabled devices needing regular access." That just sounds kinda, well, creepy. People may want all that stuff; but do they really need it?

And let's not forget, that all this "wireless" stuff is done through radio waves. As this wireless radio traffic continues to increase, it's literally passing through our bodies and our brains. We may not be experiencing it on a conscious level, but does it affect us on an unconscious or subconscious level?

Have you ever been to a place that was so remote, that there were few or no radio waves? I have, and it seemed very quiet and restful in a way I had not experienced before. If I had not experienced that contrast, I would never have known about it. Such places are going to be increasingly hard to find in a wireless world.

No, I am not against radio waves or wireless devices. I enjoy them and think they are good things. I'm just asking, if perhaps it's possible that we are on the verge of overdoing, of over-indulging in a good thing, to the point where it's no longer such a good thing?

The rest of the article is about the growing use of wireless technology, and the changes that are coming. Whether we want them or not.

I know people have made these same arguments about other kinds of technology, like electricity and automobiles, etc. They all changed the way we live, and to some degree changed us. Most would argue that the changes have been mostly positive. We adapted, and struck a balance, to insure that the changes were positive. I suppose we will do the same with the wireless revolution. It's just that the idea of wireless everywhere, all the time, 24/7, seems so darn invasive. It will be yet another balancing act we will have to manage in our coming Brave New World.

Also see:

Bi-sacksual struggles with social networking

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