Technology does NOT ‘have your back’

A sky full of beautiful stars was spread out above us as the day turned gradually to night.  Myself, my wife, our young son, our very young nephew, and my father-in-law had just finished up an afternoon of canoeing.  How were we spending our evening?  We had planned on roasting marshmallows over a campfire and then spending the night camping in my father-in-law’s backyard.  We had planned on a lot of fun things for that evening.  None of them, however, seemed to work out quite right.

Instead of relaxing around the aforementioned campfire, a massive log jam we encountered while we were canoeing had left us spending our evening lost, dragging a 15 foot canoe around the boundary of and eventually through the edge rows of a very-near-harvest cornfield that we entered when we left the creek.  As our grueling journey progressed, moonlight served as our only source of candescence.  Although we had a very rough idea of our location, we essentially had no firm idea of where we were, or in which direction we needed to go in order to get to civilization.

My proposed solution?  “Hey, I have GPS on my phone!  I can at least bring up a map so we can see where we are!”  Sounds like a lovely plan, doesn’t it?  Simple.  A perfect occasion to put the latest in modern technology to use for the benefit of a small sample of mankind.  Well…it would have been to our benefit…if it had worked.  Instead, I was greeted with an error regarding my phone not being able to acquire a data connection.  So, there I stood, cold, mosquito-bitten, surrounded by exhausted family, staring at this little, insolent device that seemed to silently mock me.  Using it to call for help would not have been of much more use, since we didn’t have any idea where we were and couldn’t therefore accurately direct someone to our location.

The actual solution?  My father-in-law was well acquainted with nature.  He’s trekked through things worse than a cornfield at night numerous times.  He knew that if we followed the boundary of the cornfield we would eventually come to either an access road or some other path to civilization.  It took a long time, but we finally reached the end of the field and ended up in someone’s backyard.  By the time we had walked another two miles home we were so totally fed up with being in nature that we decided to sleep in the house that night and skip the campsite altogether.

The moral of this story: technology is no replacement for general human preparedness.  I treated my phone as a lifeline that would grant me immediate access to the Internet and its boundless volumes of potentially lifesaving knowledge.  In this case, it proved to be no such savior.  Instead, the knowledge and experience of our party proved to be what got us to safety.  Had I been on my own, I would likely have ended up spending the night lost in the woods.  I’m not even sure what roams those woods at night…and thankfully I, my wife, and the two little ones were not forced to find out.

Have I given up on the potential usefulness of technology?  No.  I do not, however, put blind faith in it.  It’s a tool only, and one that pales when compared to the potential of a trained and prepared human mind.  Recently, I was able to use technology to get help for us when our vehicle broke down hundreds of miles from home.  I used it to call another human who had far more experience than I had.  😉

From all of this I’ve learned to not rely so heavily on technology.  If it is there for me to benefit from, then that’s great.  I just can’t blindly expect it to be there to bail me out of any problem I may run into.  Instead, I have to try to educate myself and prepare as best I can for situations that I may encounter.  Seeing how often cellular service goes out in times of catastrophe or general unrest, I think this is a very reasonable viewpoint.  Incidentally, I do now keep a survival guide on my phone.  In this way, if I am alone and can’t get a signal, I can at least educate myself as to how to deal with injuries or other potentially critical issues.  So, while my phone is a sharper tool now, it’s still only one tool.  I don’t consider it to be a savior.


[important]‘Having your back’ is a colloquial phrase which could be defined as an assurance given by someone or—in this case—something that they are watching out for your welfare.[/important]