Columns for The Lufkin News

The Seduction of Technology

Posted Mar 11, 2018 by Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

For Christmas, my wife gave me and my daughter an Apple TV 4K. Billed as a device to “watch select shows and movies in stunning 4K HDR,” this tiny little box-like contraption – which measures less than four inches square and is just 1.4 inches tall – caused a gargantuan amount of change at our house over the last 2 months. And for something that is priced at only $179, the true cost incurred to make it functional was at least an order of magnitude more.

Our largest TV up until now was a perfectly reasonable 42” screen. When we constructed our house 20 years ago, no one imagined the truly massive screens sold today. The built-in cabinetry where our TV sits certainly wasn’t made for big screens. Even our meager 42” TV didn’t fit well, with the side edges having to hide behind the frame opening of the cabinet. We don’t watch much TV, and it suited our needs. At least, I thought it did.

My wife was tired of paying exorbitant monthly fees for cable service that we didn’t really use, and she thought streaming was the way to go. Hence, the Apple TV 4K. But she didn’t realize that first we needed to get a 4K TV. One that fits into our predetermined and unchangeable space. Because I was certainly not allowed to rebuild the cabinets. And we were not going to rearrange furniture in order to have a big monster screen on a wall. Our 42” TV used to be considered big; now, you can hardly find anything that small! Some of the newer OLED TVs aren’t made in anything less than 55”. Finding a TV that fit our space and still had a 4K screen was a challenge.

And did I mention Ultra High Definition? Because you need that, too. And to really take advantage of the technology, you need the Blu-ray player that plays 4K Ultra HD discs. Oh, and the receiver equipment must be compatible with all of these technologies or you won’t be able to tie in your surround sound with the TV and Blu-ray. (Luckily, I did not have to replace any speakers, as they were good enough.) Next, none of my prior HDMI cables that connect all of these components together were compatible with the 4K Ultra HD technology. Let me tell you, these new HDMI cables are expensive! And you need several!

Finally, we couldn’t stream 4K Ultra HD content at the internet speeds we were currently paying for, so we needed to upgrade the speed of our internet service and replace the internet modem and router as well. (On that subject, I am a little pissed that we are offered “speeds up to 1 Gb” in our Lufkin market when in reality only 400 MB download speed is achievable. Frankly, neither Suddenlink nor AT&T deliver on what they advertise locally. After years of complaining, I still don’t have a decent signal inside my house. Our market is just not that important to these guys.)

This last week, we got it all set up and watched our first 4K Ultra HD movie – Interstellar with Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway. The sound and picture are, indeed, incredible! But my question is, do I enjoy it an order of magnitude more than when I first saw it? Is the quality of picture that much better to warrant the upgrade in technology? Does the technology emperor have any clothes?

Healthcare gave in to the seduction of technology years ago while seeking the holy grail of patient safety. Our own local hospitals have spent tens of millions of dollars each on computer hardware and software, and the annual maintenance spend is in the multimillions. I can’t say the corpulent healthcare technology emperor has absolutely no clothes, but he is not covered by much more than a Speedo. It ain’t a pretty sight.

The promise of improved patient safety and better outcomes is, frankly, difficult to prove. That’s not to say that technological advances in cancer treatment and heart disease haven’t lengthened life expectancy. But how much does the average patient admitted to the hospital benefit from technology that constantly pulls the nurse’s attention away from bedside care?

All technology – not just in healthcare – needs to be evaluated both for its potential benefit as well as its often hidden effects and costs. The price we pay is not just in dollars and cents. Are any of us better humans with the distraction of smart phones and the life-sucking pull of their ever-present dementors known as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat? What about our 4K Ultra HD TVs? Ultra HD 4K garbage is still garbage, just in vivid detail. Let’s make sure we use technology to improve who we are as relational people and not let technology distract us, rule us, or as is increasingly the case, divide us. That would be worth an upgrade.

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Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

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Jewel Randle, RT (R)(T)

Jewel Randle, RT (R)(T)

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