Het onderstaande verhaal kreeg ik gemaild van mijn collega Manu Brakel. Ik vond het een aardig stuk om te lezen. Is het waar dacht ik ook? Misschien moet je ook nog maar de onderstaande foto bekijken en je mening vormen.

The Taxi Driver
By: Thomas L. Friedman
Another sign of our benighted times – the dehumanizing effect of the new technologies.

I arrived at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport the other night and was met by a driver sent by a French friend. The driver was carrying a sign with my name on it, but as I approached him I noticed that he was talking to himself, very animatedly. As I got closer, I realized he had one of those Bluetooth wireless phones clipped to his ear and was deep in conversation. I pointed at myself as the person he was supposed to meet. He nodded and went on talking to whomever was on the other end of his phone.

When my luggage arrived, I grabbed it off the belt; he pointed toward the exit and I followed, as he kept talking on his phone. When we got into the car, I said, “Do you know my hotel?” He said, “No.” I showed him the address, and he went back to talking on the phone.

After the car started to roll, I saw he had a movie playing on the screen in the dashboard — on the flat panel that usually displays the G.P.S. road map. I noticed this because between his talking on the phone and the movie, I could barely concentrate. I, alas, was in the back seat trying to finish a column on my laptop. When I wrote all that I could, I got out my iPod and listened to a Stevie Nicks album, while he went on talking, driving and watching the movie.
After I arrived at my hotel, I reflected on our trip: The driver and I had been together for an hour, and between the two of us we had been doing six different things. He was driving, talking on his phone and watching a video. I was riding, working on my laptop and listening to my iPod.
There was only one thing we never did: Talk to each other.

It’s a pity. He was a young, French-speaking African, who probably had a lot to tell me. When I related all this to my friend Alain Frachon, an editor at Le Monde, he quipped: “I guess the era of foreign correspondents quoting taxi drivers is over. The taxi driver is now too busy to give you a quote!”

Alain is right. You know the old story, “As my Parisian taxi driver said to me about the French elections … ” Well, you can forget about reading columns starting that way anymore. My driver was too busy to say hello, let alone opine on politics.

I relate all this because it illustrates something I’ve been feeling more and more lately — that technology is dividing us as much as uniting us. Yes, technology can make the far feel near. But it can also make the near feel very far. For all I know, my driver was talking to his parents in Africa. How wonderful! But that meant the two of us wouldn’t talk at all. And we were sitting two feet from each other.

When I shared this story with Linda Stone, the technologist who once labeled the disease of the Internet age “continuous partial attention” — two people doing six things, devoting only partial attention to each one — she remarked: “We’re so accessible, we’re inaccessible. We can’t find the off switch on our devices or on ourselves. … We want to wear an iPod as much to listen to our own playlists as to block out the rest of the world and protect ourselves from all that noise. We are everywhere — except where we actually are physically.”

A month ago I was in San Francisco and went for a walk. I was standing at an intersection waiting to cross the street when a man jogging and wearing his iPod came up next to me. As soon as the light turned green he sprinted into the crosswalk. But a woman driving a car — running a yellow light — almost hit him before she hit the brakes. The woman was holding a cellphone in her right ear and driving with her left hand. I thought to myself, I’ve just witnessed the first postmodern local news story, and I crafted the lead in my head: “A woman driving her car while speaking on her cellphone ran over a man jogging across the street while listening to his iPod. See page 6.”

Hey, I love having lots of contacts and easy connectivity, but in an age when so many people you know — and even more you don’t know — can contact you by e-mail or cellphone, I’m finding this age of interruption overwhelming. I was much smarter when I could do only one thing at a time. I know I’m not alone.

A few weeks ago I was trying to find my friend Yaron Ezrahi in Jerusalem. I kept calling his cellphone and getting no answer. I eventually found him at home. “Yaron, what’s wrong with your cellphone?” I asked.

“It was stolen a few months ago,” he answered, adding that he decided not to replace it because its ringing was constantly breaking his concentration. “Since then, the first thing I do every morning is thank the thief and wish him a long life.”

From The New York Times, November 1, 2006