by Barry Drogin

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To The Editor:

At first, Mr. Khol thinks his editorial ("High-Tech Toys Provide A Window on the World," Sept. 10, p. 3) is about the unforeseen impacts of consumer products on society, a notion that wears its blinders quite naively ("Gee whiz, how was I to know that people would use radar detectors to get away with speeding --- that Walkman's would cause ear damage --- that VCR's would compete with movie theaters" --- etc., etc.). Limiting the discussion to "consumer electronics" is itself misleading ("Gee whiz, how was I to know that the bomb would be used for killing people"). For how long will technologists get away with being unresponsible for their technology?

But then the editorial veers off into urban/suburban politics, and the blinders are offensive. For Mr. Khol, the "dire straits of society," the "decay of civilization," the "endless battles against miscreants and mayhem" in the "inner city ... combat zone" are to be contrasted against the late-night "deserted streets" of his middle-class suburban readers. In Mr. Khol's view, lawlessness in the "inner city" is the only evidence of the "decay of civilization," and with his scanner radio, the rest of "us" will be able to observe --- from a distance.

This identification of audience is most clearly revealed in his statement that "the arrest of a recalcitrant motorist, captured by home video, culminated in over $1 billion in damage to the city of Los Angeles." The choice and placement of adjective is offensive. "Arrest of a motorist" would have sufficed; "Violent arrest of a motorist" would have been more to the point. Of course, it was the jury verdict of innocence in the face of this evidence that actually sparked the "damage to the city." No sympathies on Mr. Khol's part to the "damage" to the "recalcitrant" motorist.

Let suburbanites be strip-searched for tax evasion, beaten up for speeding, and killed for building dangerous products and Mr. Khol's "us" vs. "them" point-of-view might change considerably.

P.S. Better to talk of the immorality of reserving, to those with the funds, security (guards), (private) schooling, (adequate) housing, (healthy) food, medical care and transportation. Why design products that you wouldn't use, buildings you wouldn't live in, etc.? The Golden Rule died long ago.

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Cassandra's Curse 1993, 1996, 2007

Last Updated: August 4, 2007