Particle Debris (wk. ending 7/9) Doing Something Valuable

I’ve watched a lot of science fiction in my life. To say that I am a SciFi nut-case is putting it mildly. I’m always interested in the technology, how it works, and the impact of technology on human beings. Also, there are often pretty blonde scientists … but I digress.

In many SciFi TV shows and movies, we’ve seen scientists doing important things, like saving the planet — or indeed saving the entire universe. To achieve that, they have a boatload of gadgets to help them. But even between the action scenes, scientists are in their home or laboratory, also playing with gadgets.

Kirk & ipad

The original iPad: Credit Paramount and

The underlying theme as I’ve perceived it is that these actors, portraying scientists and space explorers, were typically doing something worthwhile with their tablets. Perhaps you’d see Captain Kirk reading a novel, but by and large, these devices were put to good use for the mission. Work was done, results were achieved.

When I think of the iPad today, I see something quite different. I may be wrong, and I’ll be asking for counter examples, but in far too many cases the iPad seems to be simply an Apple cash register. It’s a device designed to occupy our time and empty our wallets.

Now don’t take this wrong. There are 250,000 apps for the iPad, and many of them are educational or instructive in some way. I just reviewed a good one. However, by and large, many simply expect the iPad to entertain them with either videos or games.

Many professional people have found that the iPad is perfect for vacations or business travel. It keeps them in touch via Safari and e-mail. With iWork, they can compose and create and present. So I suspect that many readers will contact me to explain how essential the iPad is to their profession. The same goes for students.

Immersed as I am in the culture of the iPad, especially as presented by Apple and marketers, however, I am concerned that far too many people, who could be pressing the iPad into serious, productive use, are simply wasting their time and money on entertainment. For them, it’s a spectacular gadget that gives them a sense of one-upmanship, but doesn’t do anything to actually make the planet a better place. And heaven knows, we need that right now.

Tell Me Your iPad Story

I know I’m wrong in my perceptions about this, and I hope I get a boatload of e-mail from writers, scientists, professors, astronauts, and government people with stories about how the iPad has enabled them to conduct some serious business that wasn’t practical before. Send me your stories, and I’ll pass them on here.

A brain plus an iPad is a terrible thing to waste.