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The Pros And Cons Of Technology - A Technological Paradox

Les Bidrawn
Dec 1, 2009

We had driven the Land Cruiser as far as we could go. Despite its gigantic Nitto Terragrappler tires and 350-hp Chevy small block, there was no way it could scale the 100-foot cliff in our path. We would be on foot the rest of the day.

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We were at the edge of the family ranch in San Dimas, Calif., an area festooned with thick chaparral, rattlesnakes, mountain lions, ticks and poison oak. Our job was to make it over the hill and investigate the next valley. Pops was thinking about buying it and he wanted pictures, my pictures.

Pops tends to simplify things. When he said "a few-hour hike" it translated to a day and a half. Although he might have been able to do it in that timeframe, normal people like us would need more time, a lot more.

We had looked at the area using Google Earth and it looked rough, even from a few thousand feet. Seeing it up close was terrifying. Unless pops was planning on building a tribute to Mt. Everest, I'd refer to this landscape as "un-passable." Unless your name was Ivan "Ironman" Stewart, no vehicle was getting through this wilderness.

Somewhat primitive by today's standards, our off-road truck has no windows, no radio, no heat or AC and no fancy-schmancy suspension system. It's transportation on the most base level. Most likely the Land Cruiser could have made the trip; the problem was that none of us has that much faith in his off-road prowess. Moreover, this car is nigh un-killable, having survived numerous rollovers, mud bogs, bullets, etc. I love this car simply because it continues to run.

In contrast, I looked at the Porsche Cayenne parked down below. GPS, SAT radio, active self-leveling suspension, traction control, personal video system, personal HVAC system, power lift gate, on and on. Nice car? You bet, but I had to wonder how long until one of its electronic doo-dads took a dump. How much would its first major service cost? How long would it survive at Falcon Ranch?

I both love and hate in-car technology. I love it for the functionality and convenience and hate it for its inherent need for maintenance. Plus, I don't like becoming dependent on systems I don't really need.

All this was academic. We still needed to chart the "North 40" and it appeared the old fashioned (on foot) way was our only option.

Not quite.

A neighbor of mine (former electrical engineer for Northrop) had been toying with FPV systems on RC planes. An FPV (first-person view) camera system is piloted remotely through an LCD visor device worn on the pilot's head. Basically, the pilot sees what the video camera in the plane sees. The U.S. military is using the same technology in Afghanistan to great effect.

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The entire setup cost somewhere around $450. Just a few years ago this technology was science fiction. I would now be using it to chart the wilds.

Sitting in the air-conditioned comfort of the Porsche cabin, I was able to fly above the entire area and record video at heights less than 20 feet. Lots of deer, oak trees, a few mine shafts and a sizable stream ran through the center of the property. Despite its forbidding defenses, the land was quite nice. No wonder Pops wanted it.

And then it hit me. A few minutes ago I was railing against the perils of technology. And now, I'm utilizing ultra-high tech to do my chores, while sitting in a super-posh car no less. Talk about conflicted.

Most likely Pops will annex the property and we will need to build a road to get there. Unless of course, we can burrow through the hillside. I hear the Japanese build an awesome tunnel boring machine. And they equip them with air conditioning and CD players. I might have to test drive one of those.

Les Bidrawn

By Les Bidrawn
242 Articles



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