Ideas | The Big Tech Issue | Letters

How tech’s tendrils have gotten into readers’ lives

A sea of information has been made navigable

In 1964, during my senior year at MIT, I sat in the engineering library under the Great Dome and reflected on the books surrounding me. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of technical knowledge contained in those books and by the fact that I would never have time in my entire life to read more than a minuscule number of them. I was rudderless in a sea of information.

Twenty years later I purchased an IBM PC, which empowered me to write letters, perform calculations, and store information (on 5¼-inch floppy disks), all without the need to use a terminal connected to a mainframe or minicomputer. Some years later, with a dial-up modem I was able to connect to the first public Internet provider and use search engines such as Archie to download useful files and programs.

With the introduction, in 1997, of the Google search engine and the subsequent amount of data posted to the World Wide Web, my empowerment was complete. Not only was most of the information contained in all those MIT library books, and so much more, instantaneously available online, but the exact information I wanted was precisely locatable. It is Google and the Internet that make me feel like the smartest person in the room.

Franklin H. Chasen


Where some see hive mind, she sees a tapestry of humanity


Facebook and Twitter have changed my life in radical ways. I am more connected now than I’ve ever been, and I love it. I have instant access to thousands of people who I can go to with even the most mundane of questions. Some critics may decry this hive mind as the end of humanity, but I feel quite differently. I think of each of these as a social space teeming with all that makes us human.

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They are shared spaces of anger (#MeToo), joy, mourning (Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade), and celebrations. Facebook and Twitter are also my go-to spaces for community organizing. Just clicking on the #bospoli hashtag on Twitter gives you the power to join in conversation with local politicians, journalists, and community organizers.

I use Facebook to bring together friends and neighbors from as close as next door to as far away as Cairo and Istanbul. In using technology to eliminate geographic boundaries, I am able to focus on what we have in common, and that gives me hope for a better tomorrow.

Mary Churchill


She’d sign (but not text) this letter ‘wistfully yours’

I have not struck up a casual conversation in a waiting room in five years.

I cannot give away The Boston Globe Sports section to anyone.


I must call and tell a person I am picking up at 2 p.m. that I am outside waiting for them, instead of their being outside waiting for me.

Texting is just an excuse not to talk to your favorite aunt.

Evelyn Morris


From a face in the crowd to a unit of commerce

I remember getting the phone book and turning to the page with my name and number on it, a little bit of validation of my existence.

Now I worry how many different Internet businesses have my name, number, address, street view, credit rating, credit card numbers, etc.


Clarke Thompson


Voice actor has seen resounding changes


As a British voice actor based in Boston, I can tell you that everything to do with voice acting depends on technology, except the voice and acting (at least for now) — the mic, recording, and editing (Microsoft, Pro Tools); distribution (Google); and publishing and marketing (iTunes, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and much more). This industry was revolutionized by technology, which in turn removed huge barriers to entry. I can audition for jobs in Seattle or Singapore, edit recordings to fit video, add music and sound effects, publish audio books, all from the comfort of my own studio, if you call a dark, 3-by-4-foot padded cell in my basement comfortable.

The downside? Lots of new voice actors flooded the market, and the price point per recording continues to slide. Can I live off my earnings? Definitely not (yet), but my dulcet tones have boomed across the desert at Burning Man, educated second-graders about the water cycle, and given life to an animated superhero princess. Thanks to technology.

Kate Sample


Up goes that mind-control force field

Google, Facebook, Amazon, . . . ? Let’s just say I’ve finally found a tinfoil hat that looks pretty good on me.

Bob Powers