The news headline the other day had me shaking my head in utter disbelief. Following a tornado that tore up a small town in Texas, a construction company went in to demolish a home severely damage by the storm.
Unfortunately, the crew ended up tearing down the wrong house by mistake. They relied on information they pulled down from the Internet to determine which house they needed to take down.
By relying on that digital map, they not only missed the house, but they weren't even on the right street. The crew simply put too much faith in technology without double checking before they got to work.
I can only imagine what that lawsuit will look like.
But that's what happens when people put too much faith in technology versus trusting their own instincts or even double checking the information. While I know that technology is a wonderful, it's just that -- a tool.
And like all tools, they're only as reliable as the people using them. When someone forgets that these tools are not always 100 percent perfect, accidents like this can easily happen.
While it takes an unfortunate incident of this magnitude to make the evening news, I get the feeling that similar situations involving technology happen far more often than we might suspect.
Consider the following. A few years ago, I sat in a lecture in which the speaker went off topic and mentioned his trip to Hawaii. Having never been there before, the traveler used the navigation software in his "smart phone" to find the hotel where he had made reservations.
Having driven a considerable distance with the town now getting smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror or the rental car, it became clear he was horribly lost. It turned out the navigation instructions on the phone were nowhere close to getting him to his destination, and he was miles away from where he should've been.
I'm guessing he finally got to his destination by doing things the old fashioned way -- by asking for directions from someone standing alongside the street.
What I think has me more concerned is the number of people that seem so deeply "plugged in" to their electronic devices they tend to forget what's happening around them. How many times in the past year have any of us seen a teen or young adult walking down the street looking at their phone versus doing what they should be doing -- looking out for traffic?
It gets even worse when people are staring at the same devices while driving a car, truck or other vehicle. While it's illegal to text and drive in Idaho, that's not true in other states.
When my children and I went on vacation in northeastern Ohio two years ago, we were astonished to see just how many distracted drivers there were on the highways and interstate. Those cars were easy to spot since they were the ones swerving from one lane into another.
Idaho took a very wise move a few years ago to ban people from driving their cars while using their cell phone for anything but making phone calls. I'm hoping our state lawmakers will soon take that a step forward and prohibit all drivers from using these devices for any reason while they're behind the wheel. With cars now able to travel 80 miles per hour on some highways in Idaho, expanding that law simply makes sense.
Then there's another issue involving smart phones that didn't exist just a couple of years ago. It even has a name -- "death by selfie." This is where someone wants to snap a photo of themselves perched precariously close to something that could potentially kill them, say, a cliff.
The news headline the following day highlights how the person walked right off the cliff because they were too focused on taking a picture.
I think we've all been guilty at one point or another when it comes to relying heavily on the electronic gadgets that are supposed to make our lives easier. For example, I still remember when I got my first handheld calculator to help me double check my math homework.
Even then, I could still take two sets of numbers and add or subtract them in my head. In comparison, I see too many young people who struggle with the same task and end up having to depend on a calculator to perform these very basic tasks.
Then there's the issue with students relying on the Internet to do their research on everything from their history lessons to science projects. Teachers today have the challenge of determining whether someone actually did actual research or simply went to a site and copied and pasted the data word for word into their report.
Not only that, but it's not always 100 percent guaranteed that what these students find on these sites is actually accurate. It seems to get worse when it deals with controversial subjects in which a person's political bias can influence what is posted to these sites.
When students used to do research before the days of computers and the Internet, they had to go to a library and look things up in a book or encyclopedia. Back then, there was a process these book companies used to verify the information they printed was accurate.
Today, anyone with the gumption to put together a Web site can write just about anything they want and post it without going through this same "vetting" process. Perhaps this is one reason why the presidential race has me so frustrated.
Every day, I see someone post a story praising one candidate or condemning another, making claims that makes me wonder where on Earth they got the information. In many cases, it appears people are pulling information out of thin air and posting them as "facts."
Unfortunately, there are others out there are all too eager to share that information, with their friends, co-workers or total strangers, regardless if any of it's accurate or simply made up. Granted, posting a bogus story online won't cause someone to demolish a person's house by mistake, but if we continue to rely too much on technology to do our thinking for us, maybe it could cause something far worse.
-- Brian S. Orban