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Jason Holliston
 
Tuesday, August 24, 2004  
I Can't Stand Angry Luddites

After reading Robert J. Samuelson's article on MSNBC's Newsweek site about how cell phones are evil (Evil I tell you! Evil!), I need to vent a bit. He starts out fine, just stating how he's not found a need for getting or using a mobile, and relating some interesting facts. Then he turns:

Of course, cell phones have productive uses. For those constantly on the road (salesmen, real-estate agents, repair technicians, some managers and reporters), they're a godsend. The same is true for critical workers (doctors, oil-rig firefighters) needed at a moment's notice. Otherwise, benefits seem murky.

So, clear benefits include keeping in touch for people constantly on the road and emergency workers. That's it. Since when do consumer electronics need to have "clear benefits" before they can be accepted? What "clear benefits" do televisions have for a majority of people? Entertainment, and that's about it. Oh, the horror!

Now he goes on to complain about cell phone related traffic deaths, allowing a slight hedge at the end:

They make driving more dangerous, though how much so is unclear. The Insurance Information Institute recently summarized some studies: the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis blamed cell phones for 6 percent of auto accidents each year, involving 2,600 deaths (but admitted that estimates are difficult); the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety studied videotapes of 70 drivers and concluded that cell phones are distracting, though less so than many other activities (say, stretching for an item in the glove compartment).

Yeah, there's people out there that talk on their cell phone while driving and lose focus on the fact they're operating a potential death-dealing machine. Does that make the gadget infernal, however? Remember, we're talking about the utility and usefulness of cell phones, the idiots that kill people while using them.

Now he gets to the root of his complaint:

Then, there's sheer nuisance. Private conversations have gone public. We've all been subjected to someone else's sales meeting, dinner reservation, family feud and dating problem. In 2003 cell-phone conversations totaled 830 billion minutes, reckons CTIA. That's about 75 times greater than in 1991 and almost 50 hours for every man, woman and child in America. How valuable is all this chitchat? The average conversation lasts two-and-a-half to three minutes. Surely many could be postponed or forgotten.

In my experience, this is by far the largest complaint of people with regard to cell phone use in America. Fair enough: it is annoying as heck to listen to someone on a public bus loudly hash out their love life problems over a mobile phone. I completely sympathize with this pain, because I've felt it myself more than once. Ask yourself, though: what, or who, is the culprit here? The cell phone or the person? Blaming the technology is tantamount to letting the killer go free after he shoots someone, and then bringing a lawsuit against Ruger. It's just silly. Ask yourself how many times you've seen two people (in person, no less!) loudly hash out their love life problems? It's just as annoying, in my opinion.

It's my theory that people that argue that the loud cell phone offender is more annoying than two live people are just upset because they can't snoop in on both sides of the dispute. It's the only thing that makes sense.

So, in closing, luddites bemuse me just being, but when they get all huffy about (fill in the blank new technology, and how it's going to ruin Life As We Know It), they drive me insane.

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