Gadgets, Gizmos and Thingamabobs

Because practically every new, incomprehensible or hostile situation encountered by the growing American Nation was conquered, in practice, by handy gizmos of one sort or another, the grown Nation has tended to assume that all hostile situations will be solved with gadgets.
-Reyner Bahnam, The Great Gizmo, p. 111

Bahnam’s piece intrigued me. He speaks of man’s use of gizmos in its accomplishments. Our species has used gizmos to succeed and to evolve since our beginnings. Bahnam states “americans believe in technology and that is where to look for the greatness of their domestic architectures,” meaning all that we see and have today is due to our use of gizmos and gadgets to progress.

Like Disney’s Inspector Gadget, we rely on gadgets and objects to help us in every day life, and we are constantly trying to improve and simplify tasks. Though not part of our physical bodies, we rely on gadgets as we would bionic limbs. The internet has become our extended brain, storing memories, facts and information we cannot, or do not want to memorize. Siri was created to help people do things on their smartphones or tablets by voice that they would otherwise do with their hands. In automobile factories, automated machines take the place of some people, simplifying the task for humans and decreasing production time.

Robo Cop, 1987

One hundred years ago, people could not do things half as fast as we do most of them today because we gizmofy anything we can. I believe wearable tech, like Google Glass and the iWatch is just the beginning of an even more intensified phase of gadgetry and gizmofication, by which I mean we look for improvements as soon as we create something.

Banham’s piece gave off a bit of a cynical tone. The quote below shows how a language lab, used as a gadget to learn a different language, skips over the cultural aspects of language.

If you must learn the language, sitting down at a language lab will give you a gizmo’d knowledge of the tongue far quicker than walking the streets of Amsterdam trying to strike up conversations in Dutch with passersby.
-Reyner Bahnam,
The Great Gizmo, p. 111

The “gizmo’d knowledge,” while helpful for increasing knowledge, leaves out an emotional aspect. It is one thing to learn the language and understand what the words mean, but it is another to know and understand the meanings behind the words, the colloquial aspects of the language. Though slower, learning a foreign language in its country of birth solidifies an understanding of the country and how the language describes the country and its people.

While created with great intentions, gizmos sometimes slow us down. When one’s computer crashes while typing a paper, it takes longer to fix the computer and complete the paper than it would have writing it by hand. Though writing involves using a pen or pencil and paper as a gadget, these are less time-consuming and expensive to secure.

Is it possible that our society is, or has become over-gizmofied? And in what aspects? I think we need gadgets. Without them, we would not successfully survive. But is Siri really effective at being a “personal assistant?” Half of the time, she is wrong or cannot understand what the user is saying to her. Is there a limit to how effective and helpful gadgets can be?

Then there’s the object: the thingamabob we can also classify as a gadget. In our digital age, the once physical object can now be intangible. The internet, for example is a thing, an object. But it is also a gizmo…and it would not be possible without other gizmos to connect it to computers and people.