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WOSTER: My fear: Technology will take us over a literary cliff

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opinion Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Today’s chapter of Mr. Old Guy Worries about the Future: Why do some people think that because it is possible to clone an extinct creature, we should do it?

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Actually, my worry about the future is less dramatic than whether modern technology, which rushes pell-mell into inventing and enhancing each new trick that comes along, should recreate a world of dinosaurs as Michael Crichton described in “Jurassic Park.’’ I’m not worried about dinosaurs. I’m worried about my local library. I’m worried about myself. That’s right. My concern over the future is all about me. But as a friend from years ago sometimes said, “Just because my concern is about me doesn’t make it chopped liver.’’

No doubt you’ve read and heard the arguments about science versus morality in the world of creation. If we could clone a dinosaur, should we? Being able to do something doesn’t automatically mean doing that is a good thing.

I pulled this quote from some online piece a while back. I can’t find the source. I searched the Internet just now for a moment and turned up nothing. Besides, it isn’t plagiarism if I admit up front that it isn’t my own work, is it? The passage:

“Just because we may be able to ‘de-extinct’ vanished species doesn't necessarily mean we should, and we certainly shouldn't do it without the requisite amount of planning and forethought. Cloning a woolly mammoth may be a neat, headline-generating trick, but that doesn't necessarily make it good science, especially if you're a bewildered baby mammoth with a strange-looking mommy and a team of scientists constantly looking at you through a glass window.’’

With that passage in mind, let me shift the focus to the local library. “Jurassic Park’’ is an appropriate link, because I discovered that novel in the general fiction section at Rawlins Library here in Pierre. Some years later, I saw the movie. The book, as is usually the case, was better.

Using the words, my imagination created the special effects. They were amazing.

I used my library card (and if a better value exists in the United States today than a card to the local public library, I’d like to see it) to check out “Jurassic Park.’’ I read the story in the peace and comfort of my family room late in the evenings.

(One of my visions of retirement, someday, is to read every book on Rawlins’ shelves, spending entire days slouched in a comfortable chair near the big south windows that allow relaxing sunlight to spill into the building. Until then, I find in my own home enough peace and quiet to read in the evenings.)

Peace and quiet are the operative words when I think of reading, as they are when I think of libraries. Imagine, then, my concern for the future when I recently moused (if it isn’t in the dictionary as a verb yet, it will be far too soon) across this passage from another unremembered source:

“Are you ready to add another of the human senses to your reading experience? Google has been working on a way to use ‘trigger points’ in electronic books to deliver sound effects that would accompany and enhance the storyline. The method is described in a newly surfaced patent application from the company.’’

Yes, it means exactly what it says. Somebody wants to go and add sound effects to books. Really? Is nothing sacred? Need I even ask that last question?

To make a short article even shorter: We have eBooks -- handheld devices that allow people to download electronic files and read books. We also have the technology to add sound to the text on those eBooks, meaning we can add sound effects to our reading, or as the article said “an appropriate sound effect when the reader reaches that point of the story.’’

I suppose the notion of sound on text could encourage more readers, or at least mousers and listeners. But, just because we can add sound effects to our reading, should we? And will actual, printed books disappear?

Just in case, I’d better retire now, head for Rawlins and find my spot near the fiction -- and the south windows.

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