I just finished reading a story about three school kids who got suspended because they were using a school ipad in the classroom and came across some risqué pictures of their teacher. Apparently, the teacher's iphone had accidentally synced with the school's ipad, causing the mishap. (Nevermind the politics of the punishment.)


Syncing makes us lazy thinkers

The above scenario is troubling for a number of reasons (aside from a certain implied moral turpitude):

  • Is technology too complex to control?
  • Are computers becoming too automated?
  • Are we becoming lazy in our ability to think when we have computers think for us?


I believe all three bullet points listed above are true to some degree, but none more important than the last. Every generation has their memories of yesteryear when they begin a sentence with, "When I was a kid,...." Let's take a look at how technology thinks for us: When I was a kid, the stuff listed below didn't exist yet:

    • The computer- I had to do math with pencil and paper.
    • Spell check - I had to buy a book called, "The Dictionary," and then read it.
    • Grammar check - Can grammar you by help yourself write? (sic)
    • Autopilot - I hope the pilots still know how to fly if this feature ever gets the blue screen of death!
    • The microwave - I learned to cook by working in a restaurant as a kid. Do you cook, or just nuke what's in the box?
    • The cellphone - I remember pre-cellphone times and having to remember all of my friend's phone numbers...like 20. Yikes!
    • Syncing - Is this you? "I don't know where my stuff is, how to properly use a computer, and I will I never read the manual, so I'll just let the computer sort it out and not think about it."


Syncing ≠ Copying

That's right, syncing does not equal copying. Below are the definitions of the two words, so says Dictionary.com:

  • Synchronize - To cause to agree in time of occurrence; assign to the same time or period, as in a history.
  • Copy - To make an exact duplicate.

What syncing actually does is compare the timestamps of the same file in two locations. Once compared, the software then chooses to move the file from here to there based on certain rules that may or may not be changed by the user. Let me say that again, the software chooses. The problem with this is that once the move is complete, a file you may not have wanted synced is now gone forever because the software did the thinking, not you.

Learn to think

Whenever I buy a new piece of technology, the first thing I do is go to the Settings menu. I make sure I read every available option and ensure I know what every option controls. If I must sync certain files, like I do here at SolarWinds, I always make a backup copy of my files. I can recall at least one time that our syncing software took a nosedive causing me to lose a great deal of work. Fortunately, I took my own advice and made a copy prior to this syncing disaster. People think, computers do what they're told.

The moral

After reading this you're probably thinking that I hate technology. Quite the opposite! I am one with technology. I am simply highlighting a persistent problem of people relying too heavily on machines for simple tasks. Machines are here for one reason only: to help us. Not to replace us. Understand this and you will be better off. Remember, you're the boss of the machine. Don't let it do anything without your knowledge.


P.S. An interesting postscript - After publishing this article, the word "punishment" in the first paragraph was replaced by asterisks because it was on the banned list. Once again, taking my own advice, I took control and now that word is clearly visible. I rule.