New Frontiers in Technology: How has Technology Affected Your Life?

Jo Ann Skousen 1 As is the custom in many homes, our Thanksgiving meal ended with each of us at the table expressing what we’re most grateful for this year. One of our guests, whose wife is expecting their second child, said, “I’ll go first!” Then he smiled and said, “I’m grateful for my DVR.” We all laughed, but then he explained: “My DVR allows me to put my family first, without giving up the sports I love.” Because, of course, what he’s really grateful for is how his young son has changed his life—and his priorities.

I thought about the time management seminars I’ve taught at school. I bring a bucket, several large rocks, a bag full of pebbles, and a jar full of sand. I ask a student to come to the front of the room and pour the sand into the bucket, then the pebbles, and then the rocks. They can’t do it. There isn’t enough room for the rocks. (I make sure they won’t be able to do it by planning ahead the amount of pebbles and sand.) Then I ask another student to start over, placing the rocks first, then the pebbles, and then the sand. Et voila! Everything fits. We spend the rest of the hour talking about what would constitute a rock, a pebble, and a grain of sand, and how to fit everything into their “buckets.”

Not so many years ago I can remember cutting short an important event in order to rush home to watch a game or a tv show–or unhappily missing the show, because back then they were only broadcast once. (In fact, my husband has never gotten over the fact that he missed Reggie Jackson’s three-homers in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series because he had to drive our dinner guest home.)  Glory, how VCR, DVR and on-demand streaming changed all that! Because of new technology in smart phones, tablets and web-based delivery systems, entertainment, news and sports have become as ubiquitous and innocuous as sand (and sometimes as annoying). It just seems to sift in around everything else we’re doing. The key is to remember, as our friend has, to put the rocks first.

His gratitude for DVR made me think how technology has changed my life. Years ago, when Mark Skousen and I first began writing books and articles together, he would hand me a typewritten manuscript with the oxymoronic caution, “I need this edited. But don’t make any changes—I don’t want to retype it.” Ha! What a clown. We purchased our first word-processing Wang computer in 1982 at a cost of $15,000. Its features were pretty basic. We had to format each page individually—it didn’t scroll automatically to the next page—and we even had to hyphenate by hand. But what a glorious change it made to our lives!

Lately I’ve been learning about advances in prosthetic technology. A friend who lost her arm to cancer told me that choosing her prosthetic attachments was more like choosing tools than cosmetic enhancement. “I can even get a grater,” she told me with an ironic chuckle. Another medical team realized that they were throwing away perfectly good ankles and feet when osteosarcoma had attacked a bone in a patient’s leg. So they devised a technique whereby they can save the healthy lower leg, turn it around, and attach it to the femur, effectively transforming the ankle into a knee. The prosthetic leg can then be slipped over the foot, giving the amputee more flexibility and freedom of movement with less pain. I am amazed by, and grateful for, the creativity of these medical researchers.

How has technology changed your life? What do you do differently now because of technology? At FreedomFest we will have a panel on “New Frontiers in Medical Technology” led by Ed Hudgins, as well as panels on new frontiers in communications, virtual reality, agriculture, transportation and more. We hope you will be there!

Jo Ann Skousen is co-producer of FreedomFest and founding director of the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival.