Insurers report that accidents involving pedestrians spike on Halloween, and they also warn trick-or-treaters against texting while walking (TWW) on All Hallows Eve. In fact, Forbes suggests that TWW, generally, is just as real and dangerous as distracted driving or texting while driving (TWD). You know the scenario because you've been there yourself, right? Walking head down, buried in your hand-held or smartphone, texting away and totally oblivious to obstacles and pitfalls all around.
Then wham-bam, not so thank-you, ma'am! Because the injuries from TWW, which range from face mashings into poles and leg injuries from missing steps to collisions with vehicles while crossing the street, have quadrupled in the last seven years. Police in states like New Jersey have begun ticketing "dangerous" walkers who aren't paying attention to the rules of the road and endangering themselves and others.
It would be funny, if it wasn't so serious.
"The Oblivious Man" is the name of the opening chapter of my upcoming novel, Fire Horse, a whimsical but cautionary tale about our addiction to technology and how we may be losing our very humanity to it. The opening depicts a high tech engineer so consumed by information on his e-gadgets that he doesn't see himself walking straight into a barrage of wooden spears and arrows. Sharp, zing, zang!
My painter-pal Adam Licsko has captured a similar sentiment in "Clear As Day" one of a thematic series of oil on canvas paintings called "Remember Yourself." It depicts a man just strolling along, blissing out to tunes on his hand-held with earphones on and totally oblivious to the fast-approaching train behind him.
Adam Licsko's own oblivious man in his painting, Clear As Day
Licsko, who is presently exhibiting at Cambria's Vault Gallery and Ojai's Primavera Gallery both in California, loves his own electronic gadgets, explaining, "I am not fully immune to the lullaby seduction of modern day technologies. But I ask: With so much 'noise' are we distracted to the point of disconnection? Can we even see anymore? Are we aware? I can't help but feel that life is like a freight train coming, indifferent and relentless in its push, and it's up to us to survive it. Incidentally, the person in the painting has the time to remove his headphones and become aware of his situation...but will he?" True dat, my friend.
At the very excellent Bru Coffeebar in Los Feliz, musician Mike Quinn and I recently saw two young ladies strolling outside who were so pre-occupied with texting on their hand-helds, so oblivious, that they smacked right into each other. Hello! Double ouch! Songwriter Quinn has a new video, I Hope It Goes Away, which has a wry take on technology. Quinn quips it's "the most Internet video on the Internet right now!"
Adam Licsko's 'Remember Yourself' series and my Fire Horse novel both ask us to wake up to the fact that we are living, breathing creatures -- that our lives are not just digital constructs of 140 characters...or less!
But this scenario may only get worse, merely minutes into our future. What awaits us when we're soon walking around using Google Glass or similar technology, you know, sporting a wearable computer via an optical head-mounted display. Or as Fire Horse even suggests -- using wearable technology that allows us to walk around with digital images being projected right onto our retinas, skipping the intermediate lens or screen! Imagine the scenario, pedestrians with various digital headsets careening around into each other like bumper cars -- there'll be a whole lot of breaking glass going on!
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