Joe Pisani (opinion): We live in an era of fake progress

300 dpi Troy Cummings illustration of the
300 dpi Troy Cummings illustration of the "office dinosaur" raging over new technology. (Troy Cummings, Special to the Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)MCT

When your old man reached that stage in life known as “the crotchety years,” did he ever grumble, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

Unfortunately, none of us listened, and look where we are now. Every day some nitwit is fixing something that ain’t broke and making it worse, all in the name of progress.

Whenever there’s a new operating system for my iPad, I scratch my head and wonder, “OK, what are these geniuses going to mess up now?” Generally, it’s some newfangled improvement that lets them track my comings and goings like Big Brother or Big Mother. Or it’s a totally incomprehensible system with a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles, and the only people who can understand them are the ones who got iPhones when they were toddlers instead of pacifiers.

I probably inherited this gene from my father. I still remember the time he sent a special order to the Ford Motor Company in Detroit for a brand-new, custom-made Aerostar van ... without power windows because he wanted the kind you had to crank up and down. Power windows, he told me, are “just something else to break.” Who knew the guy was a prophet?

I look at the 500-page owner’s manual for my hybrid SUV, and my first thought is “WOW! I love all this technology” even though I’ll never master it in this lifetime. Or by the time I finally figure it out, it will be obsolete. As I leaf through the pages, I hear my father grousing from the afterlife, “It’s just something else to break.”

We’re being held hostage by technology. As Leonard Nimoy, aka Mr. Spock, who was in a TV series about fringe science, said: “At what point does technology outpace its usefulness?” Folks, the signs are everywhere we’ve passed that point.

Right now, I’m searching for an old-fashioned phone book because I’m tired of looking numbers up on the internet. Last week, I tried to find my former classmate Roscoe’s phone number. I didn’t want his arrest record, I didn’t want his credit rating, I didn’t want the names of his three previous wives and I don’t care who he voted for. Plus, I didn’t want the phone numbers of every Roscoe in the Northern Hemisphere, but that’s what the Internet wanted to give me. It it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (For the record, Roscoe isn’t his real name. Hmm, maybe that’s why I couldn’t find his number.)

Since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve been indoctrinated to believe progress is always good. You’re heard of fake news, fake science and fake polls? Let me tell you about fake progress.

I guess I’m a gray-haired Luddite. Correction: I’m a gray-haired, bald Luddite, which makes me wonder where’s progress when we need it? The one thing science should have fixed, but didn’t, is male pattern baldness. Do I sound angry?!?

Luddites were 19th century English textile workers who resisted manufacturing machinery. Now, we have the neo-Luddites, who are opposed to the terrifying computer age technology that lets government and Big Tech keep us under their watchful eye.

Can you imagine what J. Edgar Hoover could have done with all these inventions to invade our privacy? He would have put a digital assistant like Alexa and Google Nest in every home and broken in when you were away so he could rifle through your drawers.

Even my wife has joined the resistance. Every time Apple has another upgrade for the iPhone, she ignores it. I feel the same way whenever there’s an upgrade for my email or apps, which is allegedly supposed to fix problems. To my thinking, if they perfected the product before they put it on the market, we wouldn’t need to keep tinkering with it. “Upgrade” is just another word for “recall.”

A while back, I had to call the Apple support staff because of problems that developed with my word processing program after I installed a new operating system. They didn’t realize the glitch existed so, being the savvy technophile that I am, I told them. They didn’t believe me. What could a geezer who still types on a Royal typewriter manufactured in Connecticut possibly know? I had to wait until the next upgrade for the problem to be fixed. And Steve Jobs never even sent me a Starbucks gift card in appreciation.

I’m through. Hand me my rotary phone ... and a phone book. Where’s my typewriter? And don’t touch my fountain pen!

Joe Pisani can be reached at joefpisani@yahoo.com.