There is an article in the New York Times today, that scares the holy beejezus out of me as much as anything else I’ve read about how some dang fool has discovered another way to make things “easy”.

Apparently these remote clicker devices are now being introduced into our schools as a way for teachers to take attendance or give pop quizzes.

These devices are showing up at city hall meetings and churches and other public gatherings, being used to instantly measure the opinions of a crowd.

While I can certainly see  is a convenience factor in using these devices, as in the example in the Times article of a Sorority election, or even as a limited aid to teachers in school, I see it robbing us of our ability to speak up with an informed and passionate opinion of what matters.

What scares me about these devices is that in some instances these devices are used to gather instant feedback from a crowd, that is displayed on a bar graph on a screen as the data is gathered.

Suppose you are at a city hall meeting or even a meeting of your local HOA, and a new rule or regulation is being proposed. Based on a silent gathering of anonymous clicks from a crowd, a rule is passed, without discussion of it’s merits. In our society, we know without a doubt that letting a crowd rule means that a minority is going to end up being left out of something.

We’ve always had town meetings, or communal gatherings. There has been a set of rules devised to keep order and allow people to speak their minds. An anonymous clicker does not allow this, it’s black and white, cold and unfeeling.

Crowds can be mean and nasty and unforgiving. As much as we Americans like to think that we are democratic and that the majority always rules, it just isn’t so. We are a Republic, ruled by officials we elect, and those officials are allowed to vote as they please in representation of we the people.

I suspect there are many times that we breath a sigh of relief that our elected representatives have gone against the crowd and put into place rules and laws that protect minorities or less popular projects.

Cuyahoga River November 3 1952

Without a Republican form of government (and no, I don’t mean Republican the party), I believe that Rosa Parks would still be in the back of the bus, the Cuyahoga river would still be in flames and DDT would still be used to control pests on our farms.

These clickers may do a good job at gathering the opinon of a majority present, or gathering answers to a series of questions, but they hide the truth of nuance and reason and individuality.

What scares me is a vision of our future citizens being restricted to pushing a button to indicate a preference to a predefined set of options, without any discussion or ability to compromise parts of option A with parts of option B.

This is exactly how our Congress has been operating lately, and you can see the mess we are in now because of an abandonment of our abilities to compromise, protect the weak and do things that are just plain common sense, in spite of what a majority may think needs to happen.

Clickers should stay in the living room, controlling your TV. They should not be allowed to control the way we think, and we should be teaching our kids that speaking their minds is an inalienable right and that pushing a button is no substitute.

1 comment

  1. Wow! I believe this is your best and most powerful commentary so far. The basis of it would also make a terrific short story about the occasional excesses of technology and how those excesses can sometimes rob us of our humanity. Great piece of writing! JB

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